SYRACUSE — Fresh out of surgery and foggy from anesthesia, Wawasee High School student Nyla White was visited by two Seattle Seahawks NFL football players Shaquem and Shaquill Griffin at the Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis.
The unpredictable visit transitioned into a genuine, relatable conversation Nyla hadn’t experienced before.
In under a year, the sophomore has undergone four surgeries. Having been born with spina bifida, Nyla was also born with clubbed feet. Eventually her left leg below the knee and right foot were amputated after surgeries had failed to fix them.
Yet she refuses to be told what she can and can’t do.
Nyla went on to play volleyball and softball in middle school and was a cheerleader in high school. Last year she performed in plays and musicals while this year she’s a part of the Academic Super Bowl. With expectations to be up and walking by mid-April, she also plans to compete on the unified track team.
“She bounces right back and keeps trying to do everything,” said Crystal White, Nyla’s mother. “I thought this visit was cool. She always wants to meet people who have experienced similar to what she’s gone through. We live in a small community, so it’s difficult. For her, it was amazing to talk to somebody with the same experiences.”
Shaquem was born with amniotic band syndrome, resulting in his left hand being amputated at a young age. Even so, he adapted and played college and NFL football alongside his twin brother.
Crystal added, “A lot of stuff he’s gone through, she’s also been through. I think my impression would be that somebody famous, or a professional athlete, wouldn’t be so down-to-earth or really sit and talk to a 16-year-old girl, but they talked as if they were friends of a friend.”
One would expect a visit from a celebrity or professional athlete to be awkward, but that wasn’t the case with Nyla. Instead they talked about how little kids are always asking if her legs would grow back, a question Shaquem is often asked, and how they respond to those kind of questions.
Seeing the Griffin brothers interact with each other reminded Nyla of her and her older sister, Kayla White.
“I thought the surgeon was joking at first when he told us about the Seahawks because he knows we’re big football people.” Kayla laughed. “It was good for her to see her dreams are possible. I think she feels like she’s always shooting for the stars and that it’ll never happen. Seeing Shaquem let her know that she can dream as big as she wants.
“My sister is something else. I think this lit a bigger fire under her than what she already had. She isn’t going to let anything stop her.”
After the visit, Nyla tweeted a photo of her with the Griffin brothers. Since then, NubAbility, an organization that teaches young amputees how to get involved in sports, has reached out about an upcoming camp.
Having already taught herself how to get involved in sports, Nyla wouldn’t pass on an opportunity at the Colts Cheerleading Camp if it came.
“I want to do so many things,” commented Nyla. “I want to be president, be an actor and create a new drug that helps heal the world. Whatever I do, I want to be in leadership and help people, which you can do in almost any field. For right now, my main goal that I know I can do is go to Notre Dame.”