Watch this towering linebacker scoop a shy little boy into his arms. The video of them has gone viral because they’re both missing their left hand.
One-year-old Joseph Tidd was born without part of his left arm. His parents took him to meet Seattle Seahawks star Shaquem Griffin at a fan gathering in Jacksonville, FL.
Griffin aims to inspire children like Joseph who have a limb difference. The 23-year-old pro-football player had his left hand amputated when he was a child. A rare condition called amniotic band syndrome made his fingers hurt fiercely when pressured or touched.
“I was 4 years old and I tried to cut my own fingers off with a kitchen knife because I was in constant pain,” Griffin wrote in an open letter to NFL general managers. Soon after the incident, his parents and doctors decided that amputation would bring him relief.
Amniotic band syndrome starts before you’re born, although its exact cause isn’t clear. Some experts think an organ in the womb that brings the baby oxygen and nutrients, the placenta, gets damaged somehow. Its inner layer ruptures, and thin strings of its tissue called “bands” form.
The bands can pass over or wrap around a baby’s body parts, limiting blood flow and affecting growth. When a limb gets entangled, like Griffin’s did, it can cause a deformity or the loss of the limb in utero. A band across the face has been linked to cleft lip or palate.
“Although amniotic band syndrome is very rare, it can really impact to a child's life,” says WebMD Senior Medical Director Hansa Bhargava, MD.
Imaging tests spotted the band around Griffin’s hand while his mother, Tangie, was pregnant with him and his twin brother Shaquill. Tangie Griffin says doctors told her that a procedure to move the band would be risky.
“It could be taken off with a needle, but even the slightest move could have punctured [either of the twins] and it was possible one wouldn’t survive. I was not going to take that chance,” she told the Los Angeles Times.
Fetal surgery can be a limb-saving treatment for some babies with amniotic band syndrome while they’re in the womb. But most treatments aim to improve a child’s quality of life after they’re born. These include plastic and reconstructive surgery, physical and occupational therapy, and prosthetics.
Shaquem Griffin’s amputation helped him thrive. He grew up to become the first one-handed player drafted by the NFL in the league’s modern era. He and Shaquill Griffin, who has both hands, play alongside each other on the Seahawks.
“Shaquem Griffin is an inspiration and a model of how the human spirit can conquer anything, given the chance,” Bhargava says.