Shannon Marie was born on May 13, 1973.
I drove to the hospital the next morning; Stevie Wonder was singing “You Are the Sunshine of My Life” on the radio. Shannon was a second child so her life and destiny would be shaped by her mother, father, older brother, and her will. She was a small girl trying to keep up with her older brother of four years who loved her very much. He swam on the swim team so she swam on the swim team, he played little league baseball so she played baseball, and he played soccer so she played soccer. It was here that someone other than her family took notice, her coach. Although she was small she intimidated the other boys and girls on her team and the other teams. She experienced stardom. She gained self confidence and started to form her own identity.
At 13 she asked her mom if she would drive her down to the courthouse.
“Why, what do you need to do at the court house?”
“I want to change my name.”
“Change your name to what.”
“Shannon-Marie Katherine Grinkmeyer,”
“You didn’t name me after dad’s mother; I am her reincarnation.”
My mother died at age 30 of breast cancer.
The next week Shannon Marie became Shannon-Marie Katherine.
July 16, 1988; cross country summer camp at Oak Mountain State Park. Shannon collapsed while running, pain was shooting trough her foot up into her leg; she was unable to move it. She was a mile from the cabins in the depths of the woods; the pain was too severe for her to walk back to camp. Her brother was told of the situation and he ran into the woods to assist her. Thirty minutes later he jogged into camp with Shannon on his back riding piggyback. Little did we know this wasn’t the first time this had happened. It had happened several times over the years, however never this bad.
At the encouragement of her coach she continued to try to run but the pain continued to persist and grow in intensity. Over the next four years she visited three doctors that placed arch supports in her shoes, put her into a large plastic boot, but the pain continued. In her effort to relive the pressure on her left arch she curled her toes and transferred all of her weight to her right foot.
Shannon went north to college on a photo journalism scholarship, 800 miles from home, new doctors, more medication. She came home the winter of 1991 for a surgery to fix chronic planter facetious. This is what she had been diagnosed with. The surgery alleviated some of the pain for six months; then it intensified. She graduated in 1992 dealing with the pain the only way she knows how, medication, a cane, and more doctors.
She had developed hammer toes. One of the doctors cuts the tendons in the toes and inserted steel pins into each toe to force them into the normal position. The pain continued and the pain medicine was strengthened.
Working in Atlanta her new doctor told her there is no reason for the pain; “it’s all in your head, you have conditioned yourself over the past nine years to expect pain and your mind is giving you what you have grown to expect.” He prescribes an electrical shock box attached to her waist that would deliver a painful charge into her back each time her foot hurt in an effort to recondition her brain. “It’s all in your head” She tore up the prescription.
Shannon was married on September 30, 2000. She and I danced the first dance to Stevie Wonder singing “You Are the Sunshine of My Life”. Several months later she confided in her mother; “I don’t think I will ever have children. I’m not steady enough on my feet to care for a baby.”
Our 2002 New Years resolution was to “Get our daughters foot fixed.” We took her to The Health South Sports Medicine Clinic in Birmingham in late February. They took X-rays and told her to get a MRI. Days later we are told that Shannon had a tumor in her foot that had been there for over 12 years. The tumor had grown in the bottom of her foot, around both sides, up and over her toes and had penetrated the bones in her foot and was about to penetrate the skin on the top of her foot. “We’ll have to take a biopsy to determine if it’s cancerous.”
On May 14, 2002, one day after Shannon’s 29th birthday, Dr. Kenneth Jaffey offered Shannon “a life or limb decision”. “It’s cancerous; if you leave it the cancer will spread through you skeletal system and you will die; or you can have your foot amputated and hopefully we have got it before the cancer has traveled up your leg.”
As Shannon’s father, I felt helpless.
“Why didn’t I find this doctor ten years ago so my daughter could keep her foot?”
“Why didn’t this happen to me? I’ve lived my life. I could endure this better than her.”
“What am I suppose to do now?”
Shannon, her husband, and her mother met with Dr. Monson of Crawford Long, an Emory Clinic, in Atlanta and the date was set; her foot would be amputated at mid calf on June 12, 2002.
“I had failed my daughter, why did I allow this to happen?”
The next morning as I got ready for work I had the Today Show on. Katie Couric was interviewing Bob Kerrey, past Senator from Nebraska. Her final question to him was, “Senator Kerry, I understand you lost your leg in the Vietnam War, how did that change your life?”
Senator Kerry explained that coming back from Vietnam without his left leg was the most important event in his life; it had led him into public service. “I know if I had not lost my leg I would not have achieved what I have.”
I decided that I had to get Senator Kerrey to talk to Shannon. I didn’t know what to say to her but Bob Kerry would. That day I found him on the internet, he was the president of New School University in New York City. I sent him an e-mail and told him about Shannon. The next Saturday Senator Bob Kerrey called Shannon and talked to her for an hour about the rest of her life.
Shannon had the operation on June 12, 2002. Over the next several months she was fitted for a prosthetic and started her rehabilitation. On December 22, 2002 Shannon fell and shattered her left knee and femur and was rushed to the closest hospital. Her husband called and told us that the doctor said that they were suggesting amputating her leg above the knee.
“Who said she had to have her leg amputated above the knee.”
“The doctor here at the hospital. I told them to tape her up. We’re taking her to Dr. Monson.”
Shannon went to see Dr. Monson on December 23, 2002. “I don’t fix knees, I replace them. But I know someone who can do it”.
On December 26, 2002, surgery was performed on her leg by one of Atlanta’s Best Orthopedic surgeons, Mary Jo Albert. She was given a 40% chance of full recovery. Nine months later the screws, pins and plate were removed and Shannon resumed her rehabilitation.
“There are those in this world who strive to achieve excellence while others are content with mediocrity. When it comes to my family and those that I love I will settle for nothing less then the best.”
Kerry J. Grinkmeyer