The models we work with here at Matilda Jane are all beautiful, spirited, unique little girls. It’s easy to see their sparkling personalities shine through in the final photos. Recently, we met a model with such an inspiring story – and an incredible attitude – that we just had to share her story with you.
Franny is a 6-year-old from Cote d’Ivoire in West Africa. She came to the United States because she was in dire need of medical care that wasn’t available in her home country. Rebecca Ghent and her family, from Fort Wayne, IN, hosted Franny when she first arrived.
When Franny came to the United States, she was 3 years old, weighed only SEVENTEEN pounds, and didn’t speak a word of English. She was quiet and scared but very brave. Her first surgery was in December of 2011. It took 8 hours, a full 6 hours longer than anticipated, but she was released from the hospital two days later. Eleven days after the surgery, the doctors discovered that Franny had contracted post-op meningitis. She was incredibly sick, lost vitals, and was transported from Fort Wayne to the University of Michigan by ambulance during the middle of a heavy snowstorm.
In total, she lost vitals three times and was touch-and-go for the entire trip. But she persevered and was stabilized for surgery. A successful surgery and seven blood transfusions later, she woke up. She told her shocked host mother in very clear English that her name was Franny and that Jesus was in her heart. Franny was diagnosed with multiple neurological disorders, sustained traumatic brain injury and loss, MRSA infection of the cerebral spinal fluid and meningitis. The doctors told her host family that they had little to no neurological expectations for her. She returned to Africa in November 2012 after a full recovery, but her health rapidly declined again.
The organization that brought Franny to the US the first time was unable to bring her back for a second time. So Franny’s American host family, the Ghent’s, founded Ray of Hope Medical Missions to raise the funds needed to get Franny the help she needed. Ray of Hope has grown into a non-profit organization that facilitates and secures medical visas and passports, free transportation, and life-saving care and medical procedures for medically deprived children from underdeveloped nations. Ray of Hope provides select children (14 total since its inception) with all the necessities required to get medical care in the United States. Once healthy, the children return to their families.
Franny came back to the United States for a second time. When she arrived, she was diagnosed with plasmodium falciparum malaria, the least common and most deadly form of malaria – especially dangerous for an already neurologically compromised child. Her prognosis was grim, but once again, she made a full recovery. Franny continues to surprise her host family daily with all of her achievements.
She has a long road ahead of her. The specialists expect for her to have at least 3 additional emergency surgeries before she turns 18. Since Franny’s home country doesn’t have the medical resources necessary to maintain her condition, she is unable to return to Africa. The Ghent’s have become her full-time adoptive family. Franny stays in touch with her “African Momma” via Skype, and hopes that one day when she is older and healthier, she will be able to go back to Africa – even if just to visit.
Despite all of her struggles, Franny has grown into an incredibly happy, kind and energetic young girl. She brought a smile to everyone’s faces at the shoot. From telling stories to leading the crew in a sing-a-long, Franny is one really special little girl.
Click here to read more about Ray of Hope Medical Missions.