PORTLAND, Ore. -- Shriners Hospitals for Children in Portland may be one of the biggest makers of prosthetic arms and legs and orthotics that you’ve never heard of.
Families like the Millers are trying to get the word out.
Karlee Miller is a sophomore at Dallas High School near Salem. Her father said she is the youngest amputee to ever finish the Nike women's half-marathon. It helped her become a Nike athlete.
On Wednesday, she showed off the running blade she recently got from the Challenged Athletes Foundation in San Diego.
But the place that helped her the most is Shriners in Portland.
“She was always super difficult,” joked Todd Deweese, who works for Shriners and has spent years guiding Karlee from a scared little girl who lost her left leg to cancer--to a confident athlete.
He helped her get a new leg when she grew out of or broke an old one.
“We're good at pediatric prosthetics because it’s all we do. It’s the only population I see,” he said.
Shriners says it’s one of the largest suppliers of orthotics and prosthetics on the West Coast. They have a work shop with a finishing room, and custom wraps with sports teams names and other images kids can put on the legs.
They also do work for the Shriners hospitals in St. Louis and Spokane.
Having a child amputee can be incredibly expensive for families. Karlee lost her leg when she was 5. As she grew, she sometimes needed three new legs a year.
Her dad, Steve, said without Shriners each one would cost about $16,000. With Shriners, the family's insurance pays some and the hospital picks up the rest. The family pays nothing.
Steve and Tammie Miller used to live in Arizona but moved Karlee and the rest of the family to Oregon to be near the Shriners in Portland.
The experiences at Shriners helped give Karlee new confidence. That led to meeting other amputees like Sarah Reinertsen, the first female amputee to complete the Hawaii Ironman triathlon. The meeting fueled Karlee’s love of athletics.
Her father is proud.
“I am a proud dad, and I mean honestly, Shriners has been a huge part of why Karlee is where she is today,” he said.
He can't say enough about the hospital that gave his daughter back the leg that cancer stole.
“They've never said, 'No, we can't get her that prosthetic' or 'No, we're not gonna make that for her.' It’s always, 'Oh, you broke it? Oh it’s not working? Let’s get you another one. Let’s start again,'” Steve said.