Shriners Hospitals for Children patient and Pittsburgh resident Mariela Benitez recently shared her inspiring story with Pittsburgh's Syria Shriners.
"As a kid, Shriner's Hospital in Tampa, FL was the place I felt invincible in. The doctors, nurses, PCTs, volunteers, and all the other staff were always there with a smiling face," Mariela said. "They were some of the first people (besides my mom) to show me I was capable of anything, if I set my mind to it. I'm a way, you could say they taught me how to be stubborn."
Her determination to overcome surgery and complete a marathon following a 2019 car accident is nothing short of heartwarming. Read on below...
I was a Tampa, FL Shriner's patient in the 90s and 00s. I have so much to thank Shriner's staff and to the Masons that help support the hospital and the cause.
12/2019 I injured my back in a car accident. My doctor encouraged lumbar spine surgery in hopes it would help alleviate the pain. I underwent a discectomy in 09/30/21.
When I asked my surgeon if he thought I could run a marathon he said "you're very determined and I know if you want to you will." I said, "doctor, you can say I'm stubborn." He smiled and said "you can do anything you set your mind to, and I know you'll modify if/when you need to because you're very aware of your body." I like to think it was all the years I spent as a Shriner's patient, where I had to learn to verbalize my pain and my soothers.
As a result, I decided to set up Fundraise for LOVE — Florida as a way to dedicate my run to an organization that gave so much to me.
Well, Shriner's family, I accomplished my goal to run a marathon on 09/12/21, just 18 days short of 1 year since my spine surgery. My back is fantastic, although my feet/ toes beg to differ.
I'd just like to say thank you for everything you've ever done for kids that started like me. Living in Pittsburgh now, it's always a joy when I'm reminded of the Shriner's family that will always be a part of me.
Our 2021 Illustrious Sir, Noble Donald I Green is a longtime fan of Mariela and tremendous spirit. Green was quoted as saying, "This is what Shriners do - Helping Kids."