Amputee's optimism is anything but temporary

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wfaa.com

Posted on August 15, 2009 at 4:47 PM

Updated Friday, Oct 16 at 4:22 PM

To be honest, I was afraid Jennifer Griffin might be headed for a terrible crash.

JIM MAHONEY/DMN
Jennifer Griffin, with her service dog, Sky, remains happy more than two years after the amputation of her hands and lower legs.
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You remember Jen, the remarkable woman I wrote about last year.

What she thought was just a stomach bug was the start of a toxic infection ravaging her body. In a matter of days, she was in multi-organ failure and on the brink of death.

Jen was virtually unconscious for two months. And when she finally rallied, she discovered her hands and lower legs were gone.

Tissue damage had forced their amputation.

Where anyone else might have reacted with anger and depression, Jen has been nothing but upbeat and grateful.

Jen, 36, told me last year that she lived with a sense of excitement and expectancy that good was going to come from her ordeal. "I honestly feel there's a reason for it," she said.

As much as I admired her courage, part of me feared that Jen might be in a kind of euphoric denial - an evasion that would end in devastation.

Well, here it is more than a year later, and I'm so happy to report that Jen remains happy and optimistic. And yes, grounded, too.

"It's not that I'm living in this unrealistic thing to get me out of feeling the emotions of it," she said. "I do feel it. I do get realistic about it."

But down moments are fleeting, she said. Life is too precious to mope.

And she hasn't just waited and wished for something good to come out of her experience. She has been hard at work to produce it.

Jen returned to her job as a paralegal. But that sense of "something more" kept nagging at her. So Jen left that job in March to establish the PLAY Foundation.

That's "Positive Living for Active Youth." It's a program to fund sports training for children who have had an amputation or were born without a limb.

The board is in place. "She's amazing - her strength and her attitude," said board member Walt Coughlin.

He got to know Jen through her husband, Nick, who was a golf pro at Bent Tree Country Club when Jen fell ill.

"So many in her position would sit back and have a pity party, but not her," Coughlin said.

The fundraising has gone well and continues. A ladies tennis tournament is set for Tuesday in Mansfield. (Call 817-473-1311 by Friday to register.) A Girls' Night Out is June 23 at White House/Black Market.

And now Jen is ready to open the doors for business. She wants to get the word out to kids ages 5 to 18 in Texas and Oklahoma. Whatever sport they want to tackle, if money is an obstacle, PLAY is ready to help.

Jen believes that being physically active played a huge role in her positive outlook. She thinks it will do the same for kids, whether they're taking swimming lessons, going horseback riding or attending a soccer clinic.

"It's so good for their self-esteem to see all that they can do," Jen said.

Speaking of exercise, Jen is training for a 5K run. Her prosthetic legs will only allow her to do it in a fast walk. But she's looking ahead to getting blade-style running legs.

She and Nick moved into a new home in northwest Dallas since we last visited. It's bright and cheery and, best of all for Jen, has no stairs.

And there's a new addition to the family - Sky, a chocolate Lab service dog. He is Jen's constant companion and has the most soulful eyes.

As a retriever, Sky is good at picking up things Jen can't.

One more bit of news. Jen is working on a book about all she has learned from her experiences.

Here's my news. I'm not worrying about Jennifer Griffin any more.

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