Submitted by Stefani Lackey
Like so many young girls who attend McKinney Boyd High School, freshman
Elizabeth (Izzy) Groff walks to her classes with a heavy load of books each day. Shelistens intently in class so she can do her very best scholastically. After the school day isover, she can be found dancing and twirling a flag with her fellow color guard members.
So what makes Izzy different? At first glance, one might think it’s her bubbly
personality and infectious smile, but if you get close enough, you will learn that what setsher apart from other freshman girls at MBHS is that she does all of these things whiledealing with schizencephaly.
Schizencephaly is a condition in which clefts form in the brain while the affected
individual is still in the womb. These clefts can cause developmental delays in speechand language skills as well as dysfunction of the cerebral cortex of the spinal cord,resulting in weakness, and in extreme cases, paralysis. (Medicine.net) The actual causeof schizencephaly is a bit of a mystery, but it is suspected that a lack of oxygen suppliedto the brain may be a factor.
According to her mother, Torrie, Fivash-Groff, Izzy didn’t ever crawl as a baby; shejust started walking when she was about 18 months old. Her parents noticed that herleft foot was turned inward at a 45 degree angle when she started walking. Their familyphysician immediately advised them to take Izzy to Scottish Rite Hospital in Dallas.There she received an MRI which revealed lesions on the left side of her brain. Doctorstold Izzy’s parents that she would have limited physical abilities on her left side for therest of her life.
“It was horrible,” Torrie recalled. “She was my first baby, so it wasespecially difficult to hear this. I was devastated when the doctors told me that she had
True to doctor’s predictions, Izzy’s physical development on her left side was slower thanthat of her peers. Izzy experienced difficulty in using her left hand and arm as well as herleft foot and leg, but that did not stop this spirited young lady from participating in soccerat age 5 and cheerleading at age 6.
“She was ornery but ambitious,” said Torrie. Those are traitsthat may have caused Izzy to see much success in many areas of her life later on.
Izzy had surgery on her left ankle to extend the Achilles tendon when she was about11 years old. The surgery allowed Izzy to stand flat-footed instead of on tip-toe. Izzywas bed-ridden in a cast during her recovery from the surgery, so she was quite anxiousto move freely once her cast was removed.
“My foot hurt a lot once the cast was off,”Izzy said. “I remember that the doctor said that it wasn’t normal for my foot to hurtafter that type of surgery. That statement made me work really hard to make my footstrong.”
Since that time, Izzy has gone to the gym 4-5 times each week with her father in
an effort to increase the strength of the left side of her body.
Although Izzy had always had great academic success, her peers did not always cheer heron as she fought through her physical difficulties.
“I was bullied a lot when I was littlebecause of my physical appearance and my limitations,” stated Izzy. “The worst bullyinghappened in middle school. Kids would make fun of my brace that I still wear when my foot gets tired. But I’ve had friends who have always stuck with me.”
As Izzy prepared to enter high school, her mother suggested that she try color guard
as an extra-curricular activity.
“I used to participate in color guard when I was in highschool,” Torrie said. “I knew that it would challenge her physically, but that it was notso demanding that she would not be able to do it.”
Izzy attended the MBHS Color Guard tryouts as her mom had suggested in the springof 2012. She met color guard director Jason Myers there and explained her condition tohim.
“When Izzy first came and auditioned, I had my doubts,” Myers said, “but I saw a person whoworked very hard, and I select anybody who has a great attitude and good work ethic tobe a part of the guard.”
Not only did Izzy have a great attitude, but herfellow guard members were inspired as they would watch her try — and at times fail –only to try harder and eventually master choreography and flag work while refusinghelp from anyone. “I can tell a difference in how she walks now that marching season isover,” said Myers. “She works very hard to make her body move the way that it’s
supposed to in the choreography.”
When asked what she enjoys most about being a partof the MBHS Band and Color Guard program, Izzy said that she loves hearing her family
call out her name in the stands when she steps out onto the field to march.
Not only is Izzy determined to improve her physical abilities, but she is also determinedto be an encouragement for others who have schyzencephaly or any other physicalcondition.
“I want others to understand my condition and I want to be an inspiration to
them,” she said, flashing a beautiful smile. “I also always try to stand up for others who are being picked on. Well … I will stand up for them unless they are the ones
picking on me.”
Izzy will be performing with her fellow JV color guard members at 11:35 a.m. on
Saturday, Jan. 26, at McKinney Boyd High School as the MBHS Band and
Color Guard host their 3rd annual North Texas Colorguard Association winter guardcontest. The MBHS varsity guard will be performing in this contest as well at 4:49 p.m.
This NTCA contest hosted by MBHS is quickly becoming one of the largest contests inthe metroplex as nearly 70 guards from surrounding areas will travel to McKinney BoydHigh School to take the floor in winter guard competition.
The McKinney Boyd Color Guard will be holding auditions for the 2013-2014 schoolyear on Monday, Jan. 28 and Tuesday, Jan. 29 at McKinney Boyd High School from 5-8 p.m. each day.
Please go to www.boydguard.org to learn more about the MBHS Color Guard and tosign up for auditions.
Top left: Izzy Groff performs with with the MBHS Band in its 2012 marching show.
Above right:Izzy as she rehearses with her fellow JV Color Guard members.
Above left:Izzy with MBHS Color Guard director Jason Myers