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Former Patients Reach Undreamed-Of Heights

Former Patients Reach Undreamed-Of Heights

Being born with serious leg problems has not stopped either John Russell or David Connolly from climbing to the top of their respective professions.

“I remember the first day I stood up from my wheelchair, I felt 10 feet tall,” said John. “I’ve got an awful lot of gratitude toward the Shriners.”

john-russellAt age 6, John was brought to Shriners Hospitals for Children° — Canada, in Montreal, from his home in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, for treatment of an absence of – blood flow to one leg that was seriously jeopardizing its growth. The treatment was a series of leg casts that forced his legs apart and restored proper circulation, thus allowing his leg to develop normally.

David was an infant when he was treated at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Canada. Born in Sydney, Nova Scotia, with severely deformed lower legs, over the years he underwent several surgeries, including three amputations, and the fitting of various prosthetic legs, casts and crutches.

So what do you , do when life deprives you of your legs? David chose to dance. Performing on Broadway by age 19, David has gone on to become an Emmy Awardwinning choreographer, as well as a dancer, producer, writer and director.

John took a slightly different route to the top, becoming an ironworker. During the last 32 years his work has taken him to the top of some of the tallest structures in the country, and today he builds industrial windmills.

“I’ve always wanted to climb more than anything else,” he said. Both men have made no secret of their gratitude for Shriners Hospitals for Children and the positive role it has played in their lives. David is an ambassador for Shriners Hospitals for Children — Canada, appearing at public events and serving as an example of what can be accomplished with the right amount of support and determination. Earlier this year John returned to Montreal to visit the hospital where he spent so much time, meeting some of the children and getting a look at the site of the new hospital. “They were able to fix me, all because there was a Shriner living in my town,” John said. “If he hadn’t been there, I probably would have lost my leg.”