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Ann and Bill Griffin have a long and rich history with Sheltering Arms. Their experience spans the full range of the hospital’s services from pastoral care and counseling for Ann and their two boys, Billy and J.T., to physical and occupational therapy for Bill. “I don’t know what I would have done without a place like Sheltering Arms,” says Ann, who was a beloved biology teacher at The Collegiate School for thirty-nine years.
In the summer of 1984, Bill Griffin, a Unit Chair for Henrico County’s Extension Office, suffered a stroke that left him partially paralyzed on the right side and unable to communicate. On that day Ann recalls knowing her life was going to change forever. During his hospital stay, Bill and a team of doctors, nurses, and therapists worked hard to help him to regain his independence; he lived in an apartment which enabled him to learn to be on his own. This milestone was a game changer for Ann who was then able to go back to work.
Along with working full-time and raising two boys, Ann made an incredibly generous decision to volunteer at Sheltering Arms every week so she could help others. Those Saturday mornings kept her engaged with the hospital from a different perspective; she recalls the time when she met a burn patient. “I can remember the pain I felt for him. I started crying when I saw the injury, so he turned to comfort me, saying it was all going to be okay.”
They moved forward with Bill regularly working with physical therapists to improve his mobility. He had particular success with the Andago-Hocoma, a robotic device which allows him to walk upright to improve his gait. Amber Walter, PT, DPT, NCS said, “I’m so appreciative that we have donors who allow us to obtain the most cutting-edge technology for our patients. Bill has used other technologies successfully, but we are able to achieve goals in the Andago that were not achievable in our other devices. Having a broad portfolio of walking technologies allows me to individualize each person’s care, tailoring it to their exact needs at any given time in their recovery.”
At the same time, Ann attended weekly therapy sessions with other families who had similar medical issues. Ann says, “I knew I needed to go on with our life and it helped me so much to connect with other women in similar situations. The most important thing I learned was I couldn’t make Bill “need” me; he had to continue to do things for himself.” These programs helped teach Billy and J.T. that their father was a hero.
It was a particularly pivotal moment when Bill went out and got himself a job at a local nursery. Ann was so incredibly proud of him and his tenacity. He also would do things like fix the sashes on the windows while she was at work; she marvels at how he could have accomplished such feats on his own.
Rich Truscott met Ann and Bill in the 1970s and ultimately taught at Collegiate with Ann for twenty-two years. He recalls, “She was my mentor at the school as I learned the ropes and ultimately supported me when I became department chair. I saw first-hand the amount of love she has for Bill and how much they were supported by Sheltering Arms.”
He was also particularly impressed with how Ann instilled in her students the importance of giving back to the community. Rich was motivated to give annually to Sheltering Arms in honor of this remarkable couple.
The Griffins are both so grateful for the excellent care they have received over the years. Their journey exemplifies the meaning of love, grace and the spirit of giving back. Yet, this story would not be complete without a nod to Bill’s alma mater, Virginia Tech, where Ann and Bill still attend football games. “Go Hokies!”