Unplanned Opportunity

Jennifer Griffin, a quad amputee at age 35 with an appetite for laughter, recounts a collection of funny mishaps involving her wigs and prostheses. Performed in "Elephant in the Room" on March 17th, 2014 at Hamon Hall in The Winspear Opera House, Dallas, TX. more: http://wp.me/p2P50w-1z0

Everything I had learned and experienced in life was being tested at the highest levels. Every hope, dream, fear, insecurity and glimmer of faith was asking for my strength and I wasn’t sure if I could deliver.

We had only been married for 6 months in March of 2007 when everything about who we were as individuals and what we wanted out of life changed.

My day started as it normally did, except I began feeling ill. All my symptoms lead to a self-diagnosis of the flu. However, as the days went on and the symptoms progressed I began doubting the simplicity of my diagnosis.  My husband drove me to a clinic on the 2nd day as I was doubled over in pain and all I wanted to do was sleep.  The doctor instructed me to take Milk of Magnesia and to “keep in touch”.   By the time we understood how serious my situation really was, I was in the ER under the knife.  This was way beyond the strength of Milk of Magnesia!

The 3rd day of not feeling well lead to my speech becoming slurred, my blood pressure dropping, my kidneys failing and ultimately falling into Sepsis.  When I arrived in the hospital I was taken directly into surgery and woke up approximately 6 weeks later from a medically induced a coma.  The surgeons had discovered an abscess on one of my ovaries, which had ruptured, and the infection from the rupture got into my blood stream and became toxic.  The toxicity took over my body and shut down all my organs one breath at a time.

The end result was nothing anyone could have imagined.  As my body was fighting to stay alive the oxygen and blood flow went to my brain and heart to support the body’s efforts. In doing so, I survived.  But, my extremities did not.  I left the hospital a 35-year old quad amputee and someone I did not recognize. I had lost both legs (below the knee) and parts of both hands (below the wrist).

The only thing I recognized were the faces around me, the touch of my husband, and the drive to fight through this. I just didn’t recognize what to do with it all. My days in the hospital were spent discovering new sadness, fear, fight, ambition and faith.  I was all over the map.

After 3 months, my medical team informed me that I was leaving to attend rehab and my optimism slowly began to unfold. I realized that for the first time in months, I was in control.  What I did from this point forward was finally in my control. I talked to myself everyday and lived by the idea that the quicker I accepted my situation, the quicker the situation could be conquered.

From day one in rehab I gave 110% and started discovering how much my body was still able to work with me. I remembered what it felt like to be five again. I had to relearn how to brush my teeth, drive a car, dress myself, eat, and much more. Every day that I learned something new I gained a little piece of my old selfback. I was on to my new journey.

Upon leaving rehab my outlook on life was positive. I was walking and overcoming so much with the support of my loving family and friends.

I returned to work as a paralegal within 8 months of returning home but quickly discovered this was not where my heart was at anymore. I was an entirely different person emotionally, intellectually & spiritually. I found myself continuously searching for activities and new challenges and overtime developed a passion to provide these opportunities to others.

Eventually, I stopped being a paralegal and became the Founder & Executive Director of the PLAY Foundation, which provides financial grants to other amputees in order to live a positive and healthy lifestyle.  Creating a community of other like-minded people was truly a blessing and continues to be.  It has provided strength for me to be a better person, wife, daughter, sister and friend.

Overcoming any hardship in life takes a great deal of support and mental strength I’ve learned that to get anywhere in life you have to nurture the relationships around you and allow them to see you both weak and strong.  But the bigger lesson is that, the day I realized my life would never be the same, I startedliving.

Life changes and things don’t go as we hope but there are many unplanned opportunities in the curve balls of life!

As I write this I think about Patrick Stein and realize how much strength he is giving my words right now. Everyone has a story but, some deserved to be told and shared more than others. He is a true inspiration.

– Jennifer Griffin, Founder and Executive Director of the P.L.A.Y. Foundation

Having always been an active sportswoman, Jennifer immediately began to focus on how she could turn this into something that would help others. It was out of this drive to do something with what had happened that the P.L.A.Y. Foundation was born. P.L.A.Y. provides the ability to live a positive, healthy, active life by helping them get back into sports, music, arts, and physical activities.