INDIANAPOLIS — What started as another surgery for Nyla White ended up being a memory she’ll have forever.
White — the Wawasee High School sophomore cheerleader who’s had her left leg below the knee and her right foot amputated — had an infection on her right ankle bone. This caused her to have another surgery to remove the bone and heel from her right foot. She headed down to the Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at St. Vincent in Indianapolis Tuesday night to have her surgery Wednesday morning.
As she was being wheeled into the operating room, her surgeon asked a question.
“My surgeon was like, ‘Hey, did our PR people call you and tell you that the Griffin brothers from the Seattle Seahawks are going to be here today?” White said.
White hadn’t, so she was then asked if she’d like to meet them after her surgery.
“I was like, ‘Of course, I love football,’” she said.
White had her surgery, and once she woke up, she got to spend time with two NFL players.
“I was still pretty loopy when they ended up coming in … I remember it, but I also had a hard time putting some of the things they were saying together,” White joked.
White was born with spina bifida, which “occurs when the spine and spinal cord don't form properly,” according to the Mayo Clinic. Her C4 and C5 vertebrae were sticking out of her back, causing her to have no feeling below her knees. On top of that, White was born with clubbed feet.
After numerous surgeries to fix her feet failed, the decision was made to amputate both her legs — the left one below the knee and the just the right one's foot. White goes to school in a wheelchair and can only go a few hours at a time wearing prosthetics before they get too sweaty, causing sores to develop.
The Griffin brothers — twins Shaquill and Shaquem — were both drafted by the Seahawks in 2017 and 2018, respectively. Shaquill declared for the draft a year before Shaquem, hence why the brothers weren’t drafted in the same year.
The story of Shaquem Griffin took the sports world by storm in 2017. Then a senior at the University of Central Florida, Griffin was the defensive leader for a Knights team that finished 13-0 and Peach Bowl champions. Griffin was named Peach Bowl defensive MVP, recording 12 tackles in the upset victory over Auburn.
What made Shaquem’s performance so special is that he only has one hand. He was born with amniotic band syndrome and had his left hand amputated when he was four years old.
This did not slow down Shaquem, however, as he fulfilled his dream of playing in the NFL when Seattle took him in the fifth round of the 2018 NFL Draft. He recorded 11 tackles last season primarily as a special teams player.
White had previously heard of Shaquem’s story only through television commercials that ran about both Griffin brothers throughout the NFL season. When White and Shaquem got to talk about their experiences as an amputee, she felt like she was living life in an echo chamber.
“Every amputee has something they tell everybody about how it happened, and I felt like I was talking to myself. It was like my story to a T, except it was a hand and not a leg,” White said. “It was really cool to get to talk to someone who’s so similar about something like that.
“It felt like a real connection between two people and not a fangirl who just loves football.”
The Griffins make a lot of visits to children’s hospitals like the Peyton Manning one. For White, talking to the brothers was like talking to someone she had known her whole life.
“It didn’t feel like they were some famous person. They were probably in our room for a half hour talking to us,” White said. “The coolest part was that he was more accomplished, so it was nice to meet someone that has something similar to me.”
One of the things White had a hard time putting together was an even greater surprise thee brothers had for her.
Shaquill and Shaquem offered White tickets to a Seahawks game in the 2019 season, as well as a custom-made jersey with both Griffin’s numbers (Shaquem 49, Shaquill 26) on it. She’ll also get to be with the brothers on the field pre-game. It’ll be White’s — who is a Chicago Bears fan — first NFL game.
“They were like, ‘Well, if you can hang up the Bears jersey for a day, we can make you a special one with our numbers.’ And then they were like, ‘If you happen to be in Seattle, maybe you can wear it on the field,’” White said. “So, me being all loopy and stuff, I was just like, ‘Okay? That’s cool? Like, I’m not really in Seattle a lot. That’s a long drive from where I live.
“I just wasn’t getting it … they ended up leaving — they were outside taking pictures with nurses — and my mom bluntly said it and I was like freaking out and crying. They came back into the room and gave me hugs. That was a lot of fun.”
Source: Austin Hough | Goshen News