DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Whipping up a Tex-Mex omelet in her North Dallas kitchen, Jennifer Griffin doesn’t claim to be a super star chef… but, she is a survivor. In 2007, married just six months, Griffin fought– and very nearly lost– a battle with sepsis: a severe, sometimes fatal, whole body infection.
“I was letting so, I was on the ventilator, couldn’t breathe– very hard to breathe, and I just couldn’t take one more breath,” says Griffin, as she recalls one of the lowest points of her illness. But, then, something happened. “I had the most spiritual experience happen to me that lifted me out of it, and told me it wasn’t my time.”
After months in a medically induced coma, Griffin was alive– but had lost both legs and both hands.
“I looked down and all I could see were bandages… I started to realize: Wow. My life is about to really, drastically, change.”
The physical challenges were tremendous– from the simple and mundane: the sensation of wanting to scratch a limb that does not exist, to re-learning how to do everything. “Just opening a jar of peanut butter to make a sandwich! Or opening a jug of milk– it would take me 20 minutes to do something anybody else could do in 5… so it was frustrating.”
But, Griffin’s first real fight was coming to terms with her feelings: dealing with the stares and the questions that would be directed to both her and family members. Still, her faith, incredible support system and steadfast sense of self prevailed.
“If you get stuck on the ‘why’, you’ll find yourself in a very dark place,” says Griffin, “and it’ll be easy to not progress.”
So as soon as she was able, she started researching ways to enable her to get back to her active life. Eventually prosthetics allowed her to walk, and a combination of creativity and sheer determination helped her to do many things for herself. And then she starting tossing around ideas for how she could help others. The result was the P.L.A.Y Foundation– which stands for Positive Living for Active Youth.
“Just because something traumatic happens to you doesn’t mean that life stops, that means you can find a path for yourself. And we’re the catalyst for that.”
The Foundation provides grants to help amputees get active and get back into their lives. A fundraiser Wednesday night will pair Griffin with award winning chef Tracy Miller for a kitchen “challenge” of sorts at Local, a popular Deep Ellum bistro. But, Griffin isn’t necessarily in it to win– the victory is in the growth that allows her to compete.
“You see the smiles on the kids’ faces, you get the thank you notes from the grandparents and the parents, it’s really, really rewarding… and in some respects validates what I’ve gone through.”