Houston-area girl unexpectedly can't walk, now rocking wheelchair basketball

11-year-old Grace Chandy is all about basketball.

"I love all sports, but basketball is my number one," exclaims Grace.

"She listens to NBA radio on the radio with her dad on the way to school. She knows all these basketball players I don't even know, so she's obsessed," says her proud mother, Judy.

Grace was ready for the challenge to play ball from her new wheelchair.

"The first time I put a basketball in her hands and had her do some dribbling from the wheelchair and shooting. I could already tell she's gonna be a rising star," says Peggy Turner, Community Athletics Liason and Adapted Sports Recreation Coordinator with TIRR Memorial Hermann in Houston.

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Grace's first medical problems started early in life.

"Grace was born with congenital heart disease and a couple of other medical issues, but last January, she started having trouble and complaining of back pain," explains Judy.

X-rays and bloodwork came back normal, but in July, her situation turned from bad to worse.

"When I stood up, I just had back pain and I didn't know, but I couldn't walk," states Grace.

She says she had to crawl to her mom and they rushed her to Memorial Hermann.

"We've been to doctor, after doctor, trying to figure out what's going on. Grace has a pacemaker in her heart because of her congenital heart disease. So she wasn't able to have a traditional MRI, but they did a special MRI where they stopped her pacemaker and found her spine has developed abnormally during her formation. So she has some fluid in her spinal canal and her spinal cord is a little longer than it should be," explains Judy.

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It has been a trying time, but wheelchair basketball has helped empower Grace and her family.

"Grace is going to be one to watch as she grows up! She's brand new at this and she's already amazing, she's so coachable, and that makes it even more fun," states an enthusiastic Peggy Turner.

Grace has gotten to work with Peggy, the adapted sports recreation coordinator at TIRR Memorial Hermann.  She got Grace involved with the TIRR Hotwheels.

"This is as important for Grace as it is her teammates, as it is to any child. Whether you have a disability or not, you have a dream in your heart and you want to play and you want to feel like part of a group. And just the socialization, the camaraderie, the teamwork to sit and look at someone else who has some commonalities and looks like you in a world of walking and stand up people, for her to have a whole other group of friends. She's got her friends at school and in her neighborhood, and then to have a whole new group of friends who have the commonality of playing wheelchair basketball," says Peggy.

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"It's just so inspirational to see, they're just playing ball like nothing's wrong. It was really awesome and it really changed the momentum in Grace's life," says Judy.

It inspired Grace so much, she set up her own YouTube page to further inspire and thank her supporters. 

"A shoutout to my friends and family who helped me get through this challenge in the wheelchair! My friends who are pushing me, and my family to motivate me. 2023 goals: get out of this sucker and post some new trick shots for y'all," shared Grace.

Grace is getting closer to her big goal, after undergoing surgery last week to repair her spinal cord. She's an inpatient at TIRR Memorial Hermann, working hard with therapists to regain her ability to walk again. She sure has a strong caretaker, as her mom, Judy, is actually a medical doctor who put her career on hold the past decade to take care of her beloved daughter.

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