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Student takes strides with help from Shriners

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From left, Robert H. Cho, M.D., Christian Sentell, 10, and Frederic R. Bushnell, M.D., MBA are pictured at the Shriners for Children Medical Center in Pasadena, CA. (Submitted Photo)

Reporter’s note: This article has been edited for clarity and to include more contact information. 

A local boy steps into a new phase after two years of no doctor visits thanks to successful surgery.

Two years have also gone by since Christian Sentell, 10, shared his story with the Daily Record about being born with a club foot and being a passionate athlete.

With the help of the Roswell Shriners, Christian and his “mom” Shirley Blancet, his grandmother who is raising him, flew to the Pasadena Shriner Children’s Hospital for Sentell to have a check-up on his foot in July.

“They (his doctors) gave me a perfect report and that my foot was good and that I didn’t have to go back for another two years,” Sentell said and added that he gets nervous about negative reports and needing more surgery.

Blancet wants other local families to know that the Shriners “strive” to support children and are an available resource, of which she is grateful for. She and Sentell have visited Shriners hospitals three times and had many trips to Albuquerque for other care.

“We are top of the world with this news,” Blancet said. “It took his whole life — 10 years to get to this point where we can breathe and take a break from doctors — all because of the Roswell Shriners for taking us under their wings and caring and providing us the right doctors. “

Since he was four-days-old, Blancet explained Sentell has been going to doctors to address his foot. Some struggles are ahead of Sentell such as needing to wear different size shoes as he grows, but Blancet said the medical interventions have been “amazing.”

“His foot kept turning and the braces weren’t working when we were going to Albuquerque, so from that surgery and all the stretching that he’s done, he’s come a long way,” Blancet said.

Golf is Sentell’s favorite sport and he has participated in the First Tee of the Pecos Valley program for two or three years. In the past, he also played soccer.

“It’s really calm and you don’t get hurt as much if you follow the rules,” Sentell said, comparing golf to soccer. “But even if you follow the rules in soccer, you can still get really hurt.”

As a gifted student, Sentell’s favorite subjects are reading and science at Military Heights Elementary School. He plans to continue playing golf as he heads to middle school.

In his free time, Sentell’s favorite activities include biking around the block, riding his electric scooter, running and races with friends, and having Nerf gun wars.

He said he “loves” his Shriner doctors in California and Tim Jennings is his “Shriner buddy,” who checks in on him via text messages and jokes with him.

“I watched Christian grow up playing — he played soccer and everything else,” Jennings said. “He didn’t let his challenge in life bother him at all. He rose up to the occasion … (he’s) a really happy young man … He’s a pleasure to be around, but you have to stay on your toes when you’re dealing with Christian because — he’s just smart.”

Jennings can be contacted at 623-8331 to provide additional contact information for other Shriners. Other Shriners Donnie Degray (at 575-420-8277) and Dave Brown at (575-637-8987) can also be contacted.

As listed on the website, the mission of Shriners Hospitals for Children is to offer care to children “with neuromusculoskeletal conditions, burn injuries and other special healthcare needs within a compassionate, family-centered and collaborative care environment,” as well as provide for education of medical professionals and conduct research to improve “quality of care and quality of life of children and families.”

Special projects reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.