Even to a mother, the scream from her 4-year-old was more urgent and scary than anything she had heard before.
Tangie Griffin jumped out of bed and went to the bedroom where her twin sons slept. Shaquill was there, but Shaquem wasn’t. She frantically searched the house and found him in the kitchen.
He had climbed to the silverware drawer and was threatening to cut his fingers off with a knife he held in his right hand.
“All I could do was take the knife away,” Tangie said. “He kept screaming that his hand hurt. I picked him up and rocked him back to sleep. And then I called the doctor.”
The next day, Shaquem Griffin’s left hand was amputated.
Shaquem, 22, recalled that night on a recent afternoon on the campus of Central Florida. He had just finished a practice for the Knights’ Jan. 1 game against Auburn in the Peach Bowl.
He was proud yet not boastful of being chosen American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year in 2016. He was a finalist this year for UCF (12-0), the only undefeated team in major college football.
“My mom took me to a room [the next day] and all I remember is them putting a mask on me,” Shaquem said of the time he lost his hand. “When I woke up, I had a bandage on my hand and all I wanted was to get out of there.”
During Tangie’s pregnancy, doctors discovered a tiny amniotic membrane had wrapped around Shaquem’s hand.
“It’s a thin tissue you can barely see,” Tangie said. “The doctor answered the questions and explained the options. 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.”
Shaquem was born with fingers that were extremely painful to touch or pressure. On the night he went after a knife, he had banged his hand against the side of the bunk beds he shared with his twin brother, part of a family of four boys.