A Talent for Giving Back: Young Dancer Gives From the Heart

December 20, 2016

The Sugarplum Fairy, Clara and other familiar characters from Tchiakovsky’s “The Nutcracker” made appearances at Children’s Medical Center Dallas last week when a former patient decided she wanted to give back to children who were hospitalized as she once was.

Heart patient Shayna Strauss and other dancers from the Royale Ballet Dance Academy of Dallas performed some of the most well-known dances from the ballet at the Children’s Health’s annual holiday party.

Patients in wheelchairs, patients tugging along IV poles and patients with their parents watched mesmerized as more than two dozen ballerinas in colorful costumes and tutus danced in the hospital’s Butterfly Atrium.

“I’m really excited. I love Nutcracker season,” Shayna said.

The Dallas 10-year-old played a snow angel and a Blue Bonnet at a performance of The Nutcracker earlier this month at the Eisemann Center in Richardson. It was her sixth year dancing in the ballet. Her mother, Dawn Strauss, said it was sentimental this year because they could share the ballet with the hospital that saved Shayna’s life.

“To be able to share this performance in the season of giving means a lot – and it means so much more to share it here at the hospital that has been taking care of Shayna her whole life,” Mrs. Strauss said.

Shayna was just 15 months old when she was diagnosed with two serious heart defects, mitral valve regurgitation and left coronary artery atresia. A 2007 echocardiogram revealed the left chamber of her heart was six times the size it should be. Open heart surgery was necessary.

“They said, ‘If you don’t get this fixed immediately she’s not going to survive her next cold,’ ” her mother, Dawn, recalled. “Thank God we were at Children’s. If we had been anywhere else there would not have been such a positive outcome.”

A 2008 cardiac cauterization diagnosed her with left coronary artery atresia, and she followed up with annual cardiology exams and daily medications.

Dawn said her daughter “actually enjoys going to Children’s. They’ve created such a warm, wonderful environment for her there. It’s something she looks forward to. It’s become something she’s proud of. She’s a survivor, and the hospital really fostered that.”

Shayna gave back to other children and to the hospital that saved her life. You can match her generosity in this season of giving by making a donation to Children’s Health by visiting here.


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