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Meet Our New International Patient Ambassador, Grayson

Grayson, 20, was born in Kiev, Ukraine, without a femur, making his right leg significantly shorter than his left.

He was also born missing two fingers on his left hand. At 15 months, he met his parents while living in an orphanage in Ukraine. His mom and dad were ready to adopt and aware that Grayson would need specialized medical care.

Grayson’s mom, Ceci, knew who to call. She reached out to a contact at the Pediatric Orthotic and Prosthetic Services (POPS) department at Shriners Children’s Lexington for help.

When Grayson arrived in the U.S. with his parents, they weighed their options for treatment with the medical team in Lexington. They decided on surgery to remove part of the foot and rework his ankle to suit a prosthetic leg.

Today, thanks to some help from his care team and a lot of personal perseverance, Grayson never lets his physical differences hold him back. He has tried everything from swimming to football, soccer, basketball, baseball and cross-country running. He’s been active in 4-H and enjoys shooting sports. Grayson is an Eagle Scout and enjoys rock climbing, hiking, bicycling and skiing.

I have the opportunity to use this platform to provide hope to others and share the message of the incredible care Shriners Children’s gives.

“Shriners Children’s Lexington has been a part of my life from the very beginning,” Grayson said. “Shriners Children’s has literally given me the legs to be my fullest self. I am forever grateful for everything they have done for me.”

Grayson’s parents agree. Ceci said the medical center has always made it easy for Grayson to get the care he needs, especially remaining accessible at any time to make adjustments to his prosthetics for comfort, fit and function. “We’re so thankful for Shriners Children’s, because we’ve been able to get above and beyond what Grayson needs. The quality of the care and the quality of the providers far surpass anywhere else,” she said.

Grayson credits his parents and his care team for instilling in him the confidence to never put limits on himself just because of his physical differences. He strives to be the kind of leader who is humble, kind and generous even when people aren’t watching.

Grayson grew up in Kentucky with his parents, brother and sister and is now attending college in Arkansas. He is majoring in construction science, with dreams of being a real estate developer.

He is very excited for the opportunity to serve as an International Patient Ambassador to give back to the organization that has treated him since he was a toddler. “I am so humbled to have been chosen to share my story and represent Shriners Children’s. I want to inspire other amputees and let them know about this special community that has become like a family to me,” said Grayson.

Rewriting Destiny: Grayson’s Story

Grayson, 20, was born in Kiev, Ukraine, without a femur and missing two fingers on his left hand. At 15 months, he met his parents while living in an orphanage. His mom and dad were aware that Grayson would need specialized medical care, and mom, Ceci, reached out to the Pediatric Orthotic and Prosthetic Services (POPS) department at Shriners Children’s Lexington for help.
View Transcript

Grayson, Shriners Children's International Patient Ambassador:

Hey, I'm Grayson. I'm 20 years old. I'm from Louisville, Kentucky, and I go to school at Harding University, which is in Searcy, Arkansas. I'm majoring in construction science with dreams of being a developer, and I'm from Ukraine.

Ceci, Grayson's Mother:

We struggled to have kids to begin with and we thought we were going to have our kids through adoption, and was, by the grace of God, able to have our daughter and then quickly got pregnant with our middle son and then thought we still needed to honor what was put on our hearts by the Lord for adoption. And so we ended up doing the adoption through Ukraine.

Clay, Grayson's Father:

It's really in the hands and the control of the Ministry of Adoption there and very little time to make decisions, so there's certainly anxiety that comes with that.


We went to the adoption agency and were given books and books and books of pages of little kids to look at. And they were like, "Hey, here's a little boy." It was just another person holding up another picture of Grayson, and I was like, "Clay, there he is." We actually had a mission trip from our church was there, and they brought to our attention the clip that was of Grayson with a local news station that said, "Here's a picture of a little boy," He's lying in his crib, and saying, "And he will never get adopted.


We were introduced to Grayson, and we're drawn to him. We were told that he might have some medical issues. And when we visited him, we saw that. And the biggest medical issue with him was the PFFD or the shortened femur. In his case, he had the most severe level of that where he had no femur, so it was a severe medical event.


We have next door neighbors, good friends of ours whose brother-in-law was a prosthetist at Shriners. So we end up talking to Eric while we're in Ukraine, and he said, "Get me some pictures and I'll give them to the doctor."


The orphanage allowed us to drive Grayson to a medical facility reasonably close, and they had what I'll call old school X-rays, not digital, but they did X-rays on his leg, and we walked out of there with literally images of his leg through those X-rays. And it was a sunny day, and we simply held him up against the sun and took pictures and we were able to email that back to Shriners.

Eric Miller, Manager of POPS Department, Shriners Children's Lexington:

I was actually driving into work one morning at our old hospital on Richmond Road and get this phone call and like, "Eric, we need to talk to you right now." And I was like, "Go ahead." And they told me the details, told me about Grayson's diagnosis, all the issues that they had been told about the hip and how you may not be able to walk well, things along those lines. So I just kind of provided information to the family, talking with Clay and Ceci about what I would do if it was my adoption. And in a nutshell, I just basically said, "Do it. We're going to be fine. God has blessed me with these talent and skills to be able to build prostheses." And I said, "Whatever he needs, he'll get it, and then go from there."


Eric basically said, "We've got this," said, "Grayson will have the best care and the best treatment, and we'd love to take care of him." And that was huge. That was huge, our adoption process.


So then we knew what it was, we knew what we were going to do, which kind of eased our mind, and then went on ahead and proceeded with the adoption process. And everybody was overjoyed. We get home and big huge crew at the airport waiting to beat us. And the whole time, we kept showing grace and pictures and pictures of just saying, "Hattie, you sister, Brodie, your brother," and people through our whole family. And everybody was there, and you just see Grayson, and he was just lunges at Hattie and Brodie, and is hugging them. And it's just the sweetest thing. It was just like he was meant to always be in our family.


I'm so thankful and continually will be thankful for having a home life that was safe and was comfortable, and where I didn't have to pretend to be anything that I wasn't, and where I knew I could openly communicate with my parents about whatever was going on either in school or in my personal life.


We were always very intentional about Grayson getting there on his own. And he was equipped to do it physically, but more than anything, he was mentally equipped to do it. He was always up for that challenge.


Grayson inspires me by his joy. He really is a joyful person. People really love him and embrace him, and they see that true character of his. He's got so much compassion. He's slow to anger. He has abundance of joy. He's mature beyond his years, but again, so many of those kind of things were nothing that we did. I think it is just how Grayson was designed to be.


He really was more active than we ever imagined, but that obviously pleased us, his parents. We're an active family,

Vishwas R. Talwalkar, M.D., Chief of Staff, Shriners Children's Lexington:

So Grayson has proximal focal femoral deficiency, which is a process that can be very different in different children and it can involve a lot of deformity or difference in the hip joint, as well as the knee and the length and the shape of the femur, as well as the entire leg. And so in his case, he has a lot of shortening, so he has a limb that's very short compared to the other side, and some of the muscles don't work quite as well.


Shriners just had this atmosphere of just, okay, this is fun. They had games. I get to be here. I get to leave school early and go to my appointment. Every person that's ever helped me with my prosthetic, I could say, "Hey, this isn't feeling right," and immediately they would give me three or four options of like, "Oh, let's fix this. How does this feel?" Just everyone knew my name, even from the people checking us in to, I mean every single doctor. And I've had the same doctors for my entire time, so I've been able to build these relationships for years upon years.


Shriners was definitely a happy place, definitely a very joyful place. I used to go with Grayson sometimes when he went to his appointments just because, honestly, it was just a fun atmosphere and it was just a fun place to be. They had different playrooms and different games that Brodie and I could just play with while Grayson was in his appointment.

Vishwas R. Talwalkar:

Grayson is like a lot of the families that we get to know and watch them grow up because we met him when he was just an infant, and we were lucky enough that we met him and his whole family and we got to know them. And that's such a huge part of making such a big decision for a child because they have to make that decision before the child really has any idea what's going on. And what I remember most about Grayson when he was young is that he was a live wire, and he was all over the place a lot of these kids are, sometimes it's hard for the family to hear that perhaps doing an operation where you take off part of the leg is the best option that allows them to be as functional and avoid long periods of hospitalization. It's not the right answer for everyone, but after a long discussion and putting our heads together and lots of soul searching, it ended up being the correct one.


We are so grateful for Shriners for the opportunity that they have given us. They've Grayson have top notch incredible care. They've given him the best fitting prosthetic legs. They've been available anytime we've had any issues. They have enabled him to lead a full life, for him to be able to go out, do whatever he wants to do, and not one time think that he's wearing a prosthetic leg.

Raymond "Donny" Lee, Ed.D., Dean, Professor of Education, Harding University:

One of the things that inspires me most about Grayson is he doesn't skirt his challenges. He doesn't run away from them. He meets them head on. And when he meets them head on, he does it. I think, with a spirit, not just a determination, but really a spirit that is infectious to those around him. He invites you to join him in what he's doing. And to me, that is a great encouragement. He is a person who brings realness and authenticity and genuineness. He also brings a sense of hope and a sense of strength that many are searching for today.


I love Harding. At our orientation, each group kind of went to a different organization to either help clean up for the year or something like that, and my group happened to go to this organization called Lamplight, which is situated in kind of the warehouse of a laundromat, which is located in a trailer park community. We go into this community, and we knock on a door and we're like, "Hey, we just want to hang out." It's the mutual excitement that I'm here to hang out for just an hour, but these kids' hour is the best hour of their week because they go back to these homes that have four or five kids in them who don't get a lot of attention from a mother. And most of these kids, their fathers are either working or not present. And so we, as these volunteers, just get to come in and give these kids just an hour of what a childhood should be. And it just puts in of this is the world that we live in, and if for an hour we can make it better, shouldn't we do that?


I am so proud of Grayson. Obviously, there's the physical accomplishments and those tangible things that he's done. Classically, he's done great. We're proud of him for that. But easily, easily, as a father, I'm most proud of his character and his heart. He really, really is the definition of a servant leader.


I'm proud of Grayson because he's a good person. He is a good role model. I have a bad day. He says, "Brodie, just keep your head up. Don't put your head down. Just believe in yourself," and it helps.


I'm so proud of Grayson because he has not let his leg define him. He has chosen to take what the Lord has given him and to use it to further the kingdom.


Shriners has given me so many years, I think it's like 16 years, and I am willing and more than able to offer them a year of my life just to talk about how awesome it is. I think that's so easy for me to do because I've got to experience that so many times. So I think my main goal with this role is, one, to it be a thankful role and to give my praise to the people that made it possible, but also to show these younger patients that it's okay. Right now, you may be going through a lot, but this care at Shriners is going to give you every opportunity to live life to the fullest, and they will be with you at every step of life. I know that I am physically different, and I know that I do have limitations, but I just haven't found those yet. And I think that's what it is, is every person at Shriners wants me to live life to the fullest.

Community with friends is such an important part of my life, and I wouldn't be the person I am today without my friends. I will easily take off my leg and just hand it to someone I've never met because it immediately takes away the weirdness of it. Immediately, they get to hold it and they get to be like, "Oh, okay." And then it's just something mechanic, and then they give it back. Embrace it. Let people make jokes. But I let my friends make jokes, but they have to know I'm going to be quick with it right back to them of a mutual understanding of this is something that has a chapter in my life, but it isn't the entire story. I am the one who gets to choose, okay, is this what's going to define me? Because now my friends will be like, "Yeah, sometimes I forget you have one leg," and that is all the validation that I need in life. When I think of the future, I get scared because of how awesome the present is. I just don't know how much better it can get.

Grayson Enjoys Life to the Fullest

Grayson has used a prosthetic leg since he was a toddler, and thanks to care at Shriners Children's Lexington, has been able to remain active in outdoor sports like rock climbing, skiing and hiking.

Grayson skiing

Pictured: Grayson skiing. One of Grayson's favorite activities is skiing. He uses adaptive equipment that helps him ski using his prosthetic leg.

Grayson with young patient

Grayson is passionate about being an advocate for people with disabilities, especially younger children like Arlo, who are shown here during a recent holiday card photo session at Shriners Children's Lexington.

Grayson hiking

Grayson taking a hike with his family

Grayson fishing

Pictured: Grayson fishing. Grayson enjoys any outdoor sports, and using a prosthetic leg has not limited him from enjoying his passions.

Grayson with female standard bearer at Shriners Children's Open

Grayson, along with another Patient Ambassador, carries the scores of a professional golfer during the 2023 Shriners Children’s Open.

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