BHSU student gives back to Shriners Hospital after over 15 years of support

Author: BHSU Communications/Tuesday, January 9, 2018/Categories: Students, Community, 2018

After over 15 years of support from the Shriners Hospital, Black Hills State University sophomore Wyatt Bills, communications major from New Underwood, decided to give back to the organization that helped him overcome the limitations of his Cerebral Palsy (CP). His fundraiser seeks to raise $500 for his Shriners Hospital medical team.

Shortly after birth, Wyatt was diagnosed with CP, a neuromuscular condition that effects motor function along with numerous other symptoms that are unique to each patient. While the condition is not progressive, growth spurts instigate developmental problems that require extensive therapy and often expensive surgeries.

Faced with these mounting needs, Wyatt’s family sought out an outlet to help him healthily progress from childhood into adulthood.

“It’s a big commitment from an entire family in order to raise someone that isn’t going to have the easiest time growing up,” Wyatt shared.

The family soon connected with a representative from The Shiners Hospital in the Twin Cities. The Shriners Hospital is a donation-run, nationwide network comprised of 22 non-profit medical facilities. The care for children in the areas of Orthopedics, Burn Care, Spinal Cord Injury, and Cleft Lip and Palate. With a large full-time staff of pediatric orthopedic surgeons in the United States, as well as a comprehensive team of physical, occupational, speech and other therapists, they provide customized care to each child.

A team of medical professionals helped Wyatt’s family create a “game plan” that would guide him into adulthood. Since then, Wyatt and his family made dozens of trips the organization’s headquarters in Minneapolis, Minn. Medical and therapeutic services all took place at the Shiners Hospital, and donations helped pay for the majority of the financial burden.

Wyatt underwent 16 surgeries between the ages of five and eighteen. These included hamstring lengthening, reconstruction of both ankles and knees, and two reconstructions of his right hip.

Wyatt recalls his first major surgery, at only five years old: “It’s called a Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy. They open up the spinal cord, repairing the nerves along your spinal cord that are responsible for spastic movements. I spent six weeks in the hospital after that one, transported in a face-down hospital bed stretcher for most of that time.”

The toll of these surgeries and extensive travel between New Underwood and the Twin Cities eventually paid off, as Wyatt became an individual with a drive to overcome any limitation.

At 20 years old, Wyatt has completed his time as a patient at the Shiners Hospital, but he still reflects on the immense impact his Shriners medical team had on his life. As Wyatt transitions into his new chapter of life, he is not forgetting those who have helped him along the way. In mid-Nov. of 2017, Wyatt began a fundraiser that will raise money for the specific team of doctors and nurses who helped him at the Shiners Hospital in the Twin Cities.

“My goal is $500,” says Wyatt, who is excited to give back to those who helped him get to where he is today.

Wyatt’s fundraiser page also doubles as a resource for other young people learning to cope with their CP. “I share stories about what it’s like to live with CP. It’s information that is not available from a Google search,” says Wyatt. “The emotional side of dealing with something like this, the feelings of being an outsider—it’s all to be expected, but you can learn from them.” Wyatt’s page has already begun to make a difference in the lives of those reading it. “I have been contacted by families who’ve thanked me and said that this was a helpful resource for their child,” says Wyatt.

As he looks forward to building a career in sports journalism, which will allow him to travel and build relationships with people across the region, Wyatt focuses on excelling despite the difficulties of CP.

“A lot of people view CP as a barrier that they are born with and can’t get past,” Wyatt said. “However, I want them to know that you’re limitations don’t define who you are, that you can define your limitations.”


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