In March 2007, Jennifer Griffin checked herself into Medical City Hospital with flu-like symptoms. She left three months later with her hands and lower legs gone. “I remember seeing my hands change,” she says, having been in and out of a drug-induced coma when doctors told her they had to amputate. “I still had sensation. I tried to pick up a glass, and it just slid right through. It was a surreal moment.” Griffin had an abscess on her ovaries that ruptured and caused an infection that seeped into her bloodstream. To fight off such an infection, the body’s blood rushes to all the vital organs, abandoning the extremities. The 35-year-old newlywed and successful paralegal had to relearn how to walk, how to eat, how to drive, how to shower, how to put on her makeup. “I became a child again,” Griffin says. “I knew that was my opportunity to take control.” After months of rehab, the Disney Streets resident recovered with strong support from friends and family. “I was 35 at the time, and I started thinking about what this kind of experience means to younger kids. The sooner they build confidence, the further they can go in life.” So Griffin launched the P.L.A.Y. Foundation (Positive Living for Active Youth). The nonprofit provides $2,500 grants for child amputees to pursue their passions in academics, sports or the arts. It began locally, but now Griffin and her team are receiving applications from across the country. In three years, they’ve given $65,000 in grants. But before she could empower others, Griffin had to embrace her own life as an amputee. “It’s really about acceptance of yourself and of human curiosity. Of course I get the looks, but I’ve found that most people are just curious and not trying to be rude. I’m way beyond that now. A lot of people have benefited from my foundation. That’s more important to me than having a foot. That doesn’t define me.”
To learn more about the P.L.A.Y. Foundation, visit playfoundation.net.
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