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news item News Thursday, January 17, 2019 Thursday, January 17, 2019 3:10 PM - Thursday, January 17, 2019 3:10 PM

The power of a hug at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Salt Lake City

Eleven-year-old Phoenix doesn’t remember the life-changing surgeries, serial casting and braces that transformed his severely clubbed-feet into what they are today, but he does remember Kristen L. Carroll, M.D. When he comes to Shriners Hospitals for Children — Salt Lake City for a check-up and Dr. Carroll enters the room, his smile takes over his whole face and he gives her a big hug.

January 21 is National Hugging Day! Hugs happen every day at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Salt Lake City, and today we reflect on the power of a hug. When a child has been taken care of so well by their care provider that a thank you doesn’t seem to quite communicate how she feels, she naturally throws her arms around her neck. Though 4-year-old Shelby was told she would never be able to walk, climb or jump, physical therapist Crystal Haakenson, D.P.T., is helping her prove otherwise. Shelby is so excited every time she sees Crystal that only a hug will do.

Kate’s favorite person to hug at the hospital is a doctor who has actually never been her care provider. But every time she saw Kate at the hospital, she would say, “Hi pretty girl!” This small gesture made a big impression on Kate as she grew up making numerous trips to the hospital. “She made me feel so special even when I didn’t feel very confident in myself,” said Kate. “Shriners Hospitals for Children is full of amazing people like this!”

Cole, who is a patient ambassador, regularly goes to the administrative wing to say "hi" to the marketing and communications team, and has gotten to know Kim from the development department across the hall, who handles in-kind donations. When she found out that Cole loves monkeys, she started setting a monkey aside for him when stuffed animals were donated. Kim has become his favorite person to hug. "I love to hug Ms. Kim because she always has monkeys around and makes me feel happy!"

Dr. Carroll has been such a big part of Phoenix and his family member's lives for so long that they consider her family. “When we first see her [at clinic appointments] she gives us hugs, which is not something you would expect from your doctor,” said Chairiti, Phoenix’s mom. “She is engaged, she listens and even more than that, she truly cares about my kids and why they come to her.”

Patient Shelby working with physical therapist Crystal

Pictured: (top right) Cole nuzzles the monkey Kim gave him during a physical therapy visit, (bottom) Shelby works hard at her physical therapy appointment with one of her favorite people, her physical therapist, Crystal.