Today, Giana Bancsy is a sophomore in high school who enjoys swimming, spending time with friends, and playing the violin in her school orchestra. She is learning to sew with the help of her grandmother and appears to be a happy, healthy teenager.
But she’s a teenager with considerable inside knowledge.
Ask Giana about the importance of the human spine and she’ll share details that the typical teenager doesn’t know. That’s because Giana has been in the specialized care of Shriners Children’s Chicago since childhood.
Born with relatively rare double abnormalities on her spine, Giana’s treatment for scoliosis and kyphosis included casting, traction and numerous surgeries that resulted in months of hospitalization from the age of 2½. total age. Though Giana has had more invasive procedures than most people in her lifetime, she doesn’t consider any of them to be negative experiences, says her mother, Sarah Bancsy.
“When Giana had to give a presentation for school, I encouraged her to use her experiences as a topic, but it’s not a big deal for her,” says Bancsy. “She doesn’t view the experience negatively, and that’s because of how Shriners took care of her. Her focus is on turning a scary experience into a positive, even fun experience for kids.”
Although Bancsy has been by Giana’s side throughout her years of treatment, she says there was a time when she had never heard of Shriners Children’s. Now she says she recommends all parents choose Shriners for their child’s spine care, even for the mildest cases of scoliosis.
“I would choose Shriners any day of the week. Anyone with a spinal problem, even a minor one, I say, the experts at Shriners know what they’re talking about. No doubt about it,” she says.
100 years of care at Shriners Children’s Chicago
Founded as a charitable response to two pandemics, Shriners Children’s has provided specialized pediatric care for a century. “The first pandemic was tuberculosis and then polio. We used to have a unit with children with iron lungs,” says Purnendu Gupta, MD, pediatric spine surgeon and chief of staff at Shriners Children’s Chicago. “Children affected by polio and tuberculosis had orthopedic issues, so we would take care of that.”
The healthcare system with 21 locations has been expanded over the years. In 1983, Shriners Chicago added spinal cord injury rehabilitation for children, which is now recognized nationally. Also in the 1980s, Shriners Children’s began a facial and cleft palate reconstruction program.
“We have fantastic specialists in various areas, including the spine,” says Dr. gupta “What is unique about Shriners Children’s Chicago is that we take a multidisciplinary team approach.”
Through what he calls a “legacy practice,” Dr. Gupta provides specialized spinal surgery care where multiple providers work together to leverage their specific knowledge and skills. Most recently, the spine team has grown to include John Ghazi, MD, who brings expertise gained through his residency at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in Rutgers and a fellowship at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children. “This is a well-known pediatric orthopedic surgical fellowship and we are very excited to have him join us. He brings new training from TSRH,” explains Dr. gupta
Take care of simpler cases too
Parents benefit from knowing their children are in the best hands, particularly when it comes to complex medical conditions, with specialized experience handling the most difficult cases – including caring for children who travel around the world for care. This means the Shriners Children’s Chicago spine team has the expertise to take care of all types of pediatric spine needs.
“International care is a growing aspect of our care, and as a spine surgeon, it gives me a diverse range of experiences. I learn so much from it and this learning never stops. These difficult and complex conditions coming from overseas give me a perspective for what I am doing here and now. And it makes me a better person and a better surgeon,” says Dr. gupta
As an important part of the team that cared for Giana, Dr. Gupta recognizes the value of open communication and collaboration with his patients and their families – a basis for Sarah Bancsy’s appreciation of her family’s experience with Shriners Children’s Chicago. “The team has always made Giana feel special and important, a decision maker,” she says. “They always talked to her, not just me.”
Like all families at Shriners Children’s, the Bancsy family benefited from an ongoing, all-round care that Dr. Gupta is part of the ongoing mission.
“The dedication and thought they put into caring for your child is incredible,” says Bancsy. “Giana is very unique and I remember (Dr. Gupta) taking her films all over the country to get opinions. He has always been honest with me and told me exactly what to expect and both the best case scenario and the worst case scenario. I knew I could trust him and that is important to your daughter’s doctor, especially when you are putting her life in his hands. Spinal surgery is a pretty big deal.”
When your child’s treatment spans years — most of their life — day-to-day care is important, too, Bancsy says, acknowledging the years of caring from the entire team. “Linda, the nurse, has been with us since day one. It was hard for me because I had another daughter at home, but I never left the hospital. It was hard for our family,” she says. “But Linda brought me coffee in the morning. She texted me asking what I wanted in the morning – that’s pretty unusual. They played an important role in protecting me, watching over me and caring for me, and I wasn’t even the patient. I can’t say enough good things about her.”
As Giana looks back on her experience, she says the years have passed quickly, even though her treatments were tough on her at the time. “People there have always worked to make it better for me,” she says. Her mother agrees. “They are amazing.”
Shriners Children’s provides excellent care and services for children under the age of 18 for both insured and uninsured families. Learn more about Shriners Children’s Chicago at shrinerschicago.org. To request an appointment, call 773-385-KIDS (5437).