ST. LOUIS – Shriners Hospital for Children in St. Louis has been treating patients with bone disease and deformities for more than 95 years. On Monday (June 24), the hospital got a special visit from a woman who began treatment there more than 80 years ago.
It was a weekend full of surprise for Nelda (Grigg) Bevill, 86. She knew she was visiting St. Louis to watch Albert Pujols’ return to Busch Stadium, but everything else was icing on the cake.
Bevill was born in 1932 in Fillmore, Illinois. She was the seventh child born in her family of eight children. Bevill was born with a clubfoot and was not expected to survive.
According to Dr. Brian Kelly, Assistant Professor of Orthopedic Surgery at Washington University School of Medicine, clubfoot affects the lower extremities causing the foot to turn inward so the sole of the foot is turned upwards. Kelly said before surgery, clubfeet were treated with braces and casts.
“Even before we had a perfect understanding of what was causing clubfeet, there were practitioners who realized you can manipulate the foot and hold it in that position and you can get reasonable correction of this deformity,” said Kelly.
Early intervention was not effective for Bivell. In 1937, at five-years-old, Bivell was admitted to Shriners Hospital for Children in St. Louis to have surgery to correct her clubfoot. She stayed in the hospital for seven months.
Bivell excelled academically but still faced challenges at school. The girl’s restroom was on the second floor of the schoolhouse forcing her to climb stairs with a casted leg, and her condition made it difficult to keep up with the other kids physically on the playground and during physical education.
Between the ages of five and 14-years-old, Bivell completed four stays ranging from two weeks to seven months and underwent several surgeries at Shriners Hospital for Children.
It was after her third stay at the hospital when she was nine-years-old that her father bought her a piano.
“I call it my gift,” said Bevill, “because after learning what the notes meant and learning where they were, my fingers just move. They just go.”
Bevill remembers her time at Shriners Hospital fondly. She said there was often games and music.
“They brought in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs for us to see, the movie that had just come out,” said Bevill. “Then in the summertime, they brought the Shrine Circus, so we could go out on the patio.”
The Shriners honored Bevill, a lifelong Cardinals fan, by celebrating her in their suite at Saturday’s (June 23) game. Bevill said she has watched the Cardinals play in three home stadiums.
Her experience at Shriners Hospital for Children inspired Bevill to pursue a career in nursing. After graduating from nursing school, Bevill got married and had five children.
Bevill shared her day at the ballpark with her family, and she said she owes all of her “blessings” to the Shriners.
Kelly said one in 1,000 children are diagnosed with clubfoot. It may affect one or both feet, and it is seen in boys more often than girls. Kelly said treatment for clubfoot has improved, and these days, the prognosis is “excellent.”