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Poem by High School Golfer with Disability Recognized in National Poetry Contest

Griffin, a high school senior in suburban Chicago, enjoys hanging out with friends, reading, history, playing video games, drama, writing and golf. He played on the high school golf team in pre-COVID times. A big moment in Griffin’s life came when he was selected to represent the children’s hospital he grew up with at a PGA TOUR golf event. He also had the chance to hit off the tee with dozens of PGA pro golfers.

This amazing opportunity of being chosen as a Patient Ambassador for Shriners Hospitals for Children — Chicago and attending the 2019 Shriners Hospitals for Children Open inspired the then 17-year-old to write a poem about growing up with cerebral palsy. His poem was picked as a Topical Winner in a poetry contest open to all U.S. high school students. The poem was recently published in an anthology of American High School Poets of Faith and Inspiration in July. According to the Live Poets Society of New Jersey, American High School Poet website, “Poems selected as Topical Winners are quality poems which we feel add a unique perspective or passion to the subject, and which the judges believe other young people could relate to and would enjoy reading.”

Griffin’s medical journey began at birth. He was born two months premature, weighing less than 4 pounds, with a condition known as EA/TEF (esophageal atresia and tracheal esophageal fistula).  When he was just 3 days old, he underwent surgery to detach his esophagus from his trachea and reattach it in its correct position. Another surgery followed at 5 weeks old. When he was 2, Griffin was diagnosed with diplegic cerebral palsy (CP). His mom, Jennifer, said the condition was either caused by his premature birth or the many times he stopped breathing during his 49 days in neonatal ICU.

Griffin was referred to Shriners Hospital for Children — Chicago when he was 4, for orthopaedic care from the hospital’s multidisciplinary cerebral palsy team. As part of his care at Shriners Hospitals, Griffin received many pairs of AFO (ankle-foot orthosis) braces, which helped support his legs while walking. He has undergone many rounds of injections to relax overtight muscles in both his upper and lower legs, a condition related to his cerebral palsy. Griffin has also had casts on both legs to stretch his leg muscles and improve his gait pattern. When Griffin was 13, he participated in the Chicago Shriners IntelliStretch Therapy Study, which is a robotic ankle-training program for CP patients. 

Griffin's poem is included below:

My Gift

Ever since I was born I had a big flaw
That changed my life into one big seesaw
Out of the womb I came, feeling different than the other kids
My mom helped me out as much as she could
I was just a little boy, full of youthful purity and innocence
She wanted it to be normal, give a normal childhood
But it was never normal, a monster named CP they called it
It seized my legs and dragged me down into its vicious, monstrous pit
For years I sat down in that pit, wondering if I was good enough
Was I worth the trouble and effort to risk saving?
Was I going to be liked by everyone else, or was I going to be alone?
Then one day, it hit me like a bolt of lightning straight to the head
My legs don’t define me, that’s what I should’ve known
What’s the point of living, if you’re acting like you’re dead?
I rose up, but these chains kept me held down.
I know that I could be the king of my very own stage, wearing my own crown
It doesn’t matter what I’m labeled by, I’m the one in control
I have my own dreams, hopes and one true goal
To make others proud and be happy with what I have done
If God gave me this gift, I can do anything and feel like a champion.

– Griffin P., age 17

His Shriners Hospitals physicians, clinicians and therapists are proud to have helped Griffin with treatments that made it possible to him to live a full active life. For more on our care for cerebral palsy in children, visit our CP webpage.

Griffin holding poem

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