Upstate Orthopedics is proud to be the recipient of a second, generous donation from a former patient. Dr. Rajin Shahriar, Pediatric Orthopedic Surgeon, was happy to accept the donation of 40 stuffed animals, some with braces, some with spinal fusion scars, from Hailey Rinaldi, former scoliosis patient and current community giver.
Hailey first entered the doors of Upstate Bone and Joint as a 9-year-old, uncertain and emotional about the scoliosis journey that was ahead of her. She wore a brace for her scoliosis for five years and then had spinal fusion surgery as a senior in high school. She remembers being terrified when she was told that she needed surgery so, wanting to connect with others who had surgery for scoliosis, she went to social media. It was there that she first learned about Higgy Bears and the message that creator Lauren Higginson was spreading, “Bent Not Broken”. These bears, now offered in a variety of stuffed animals and treatment conditions, are intended to be special companions for scoliosis patients with a selection of braces and spinal fusion scars, and more!
Once Hailey started following Higgy Bears, she noticed groups that would organize donations to patients, so she reached out to Lauren to see what SHE would need to do to put a donation together. Hailey gave her first gift to Upstate Orthopedics in 2022 and knew she didn’t want it to be a one-time contribution. Hailey runs her fund-raising campaign December through February 9, the anniversary of her surgery, using social media, including her public Instagram @haileyscoliosis, and has received donations from family, friends, personal supporters, and even strangers who sees her social media posts and in-person posters.
Hailey gives from a place of gratitude and she exudes positivity as she details her experience with Upstate Orthopedics. She highlights the great care that she received, from the doctors to the nurses and medical staff, and it was through her stay in the hospital that Hailey was reaffirmed in her decision to pursue nursing. Hailey just finished her sophomore year as a nursing major at St. John Fisher University in Rochester, and this summer she will be working as a student clinical assistant with orthopedics at Community General Hospital in preparation for starting clinicals in the fall.
Motivated by the care that she received, and the support she found through the Higgy Bear community, Hailey is devoted to giving back to others. She includes a personal note with each bear so the patients know they are coming from someone who has also been through the diagnosis, “I have been in your shoes, and I’m ok – I’m doing well.” When asked what having a stuffed animal companion would have meant to hear, she states that a gift such as this would have let her know there were others who have undergone treatment, and this would have provided comfort in the time of uncertainty. Dr. Shahriar has embraced these bears and is a big supporter of providing Higgy Bears to his scoliosis patients. He has seen first-hand how these soft stuffed animals have eased emotions of his patients who are new to their diagnosis and treatment.
Hailey praises her own treatment team, Drs. Stephen Albanese and William Lavelle, as both being amazing and their support being incredible. In the telling of her own story, Hailey detailed how Dr. Lavelle personally called her and worked with her family to expedite her surgery during the early days of COVID. He did everything he could to make it happen, and he was amazing through all of it. Hailey says, “This treatment is life changing”, and thanks to Hailey, more patients will find additional comfort and support in the form of cuddly sidekick.
For more information on Higgy Bears, visit www.higgybears.com. To support Hailey’s journey, you can see her Instagram @haileyscoliosis where she shares updates and support, and announcements on future fundraising efforts.