Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

August 16, 2013

Young gymnast longs to be U.S. citizen

By Brenda L. Holmes


When Deanna French brought a tiny baby home from Chechnya she had no idea the impact she would have on her life. The baby had barely survived her birth and was severely underweight at 11 months.

Now, Madina French, 10, is a thriving young lady with Olympic aspirations and a desperate desire to have her American citizenship.

“She was a premature baby that weighed 1.1 pounds,” Deanna said. “She’s a miracle baby.”

Little Madina fought for her life but needed a lot of medical care. Deanna, a single woman, had wanted to adopt and she was contacted about taking her into her family.

“I was doing some medical mission work at the time and found out she was available,” she said. “I said ‘yes’ and have never regretted my decision. I fell in love with her immediately.”

Madina was born without most of her face. She has had 22 surgeries to construct a face and is still in need of more medical procedures. She will soon have surgery to construct a hard pallet.

Deanna was able to legally adopt Madina but her country will not allow her to become an American citizen.

“And since she is not an American citizen, I cannot get any kind of help,” Deanna said. “She doesn’t have a social security number so I can’t apply for assistance for her medical care. She is considered an alien in the U.S. even though she has been here since she was 11 months old.”

Without a social security number she is also unable to get medical insurance.

“My daughter has totally changed my entire life for good,” she said. “But we’ve had to overcome lots of hurdles.”

Her parents were a source of support before they passed. Now, she says, she relies on her church family at Plainfield Christian Church.

“My parents were our emotional support,” she said. “We could lean on them — now we lean on the church.

“I went to the church ask asked them if they could help me raise my daughter and they said yes. I want her life to be well rounded.”

When Madina came to the United States at 10 and a half months, she only weighed 10.5 pounds.

“She was wearing 0-3 month clothes,” she said. “She didn’t walk until she was almost 3 years old. Her muscles were flaccid and she needed more muscle control.”

A few years ago, one of Madina’s doctors said gymnastics would help her muscle development and make her stronger. She started taking gymnastics while the family lived in Southern Indiana. Then Deanna got her enrolled at Hoosier Gymnastics in Plainfield under the coaching staff of Kevin, Terra, and Victoria O’Brien.

“She’s pretty amazing,” Deanna said. “I am so very proud of her.”

Madina has become a very good gymnast and has dreams of representing the United States in the Olympics. She is currently competing at level nine and is on the gym’s competition team with other girls in junior high and high school.

“Her goal is the make the Olympic team,” Deanna said. “I don’t know if she can make it or not but her coaches said she has the inner drive. Anything is possible.”

All the surgeries and medical expenses are weighing on Deanna and Madina. Deanna normally has four or five jobs to keep up with medical expenses and household bills.

As a nurse practioner, she works for the Indianapolis Colts and at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. Two years ago, when the stage collapsed at the state fair, Deanna was injured while pulling people from the wreckage.

“I hurt my knee so I have problems with it,” she said. “But I know God will take care of us.”

Deanna and Madina live in Brownsburg. To save on gas funds, Deanna either stays at the gym or gets help with rides from other family friends.

Deanna said she just knows her daughter survived for a reason. She is desperate for help with getting citizenship for her daughter so they can get the medical attention she needs.

“I’ve been to a few attorneys,” she said. “They think they can help so you give them your money as a retainer. Then nothing seems to happen. There has to be someone out there who can help.”

Madina loves church, gymnastics, her friends, and of course her mother.

She recently entered a writing competition at the Hendricks County Flyer prior to Mother’s Day. And she won.

Her entry started, “My mom I very special because she adopted me. She had to travel a long way all by herself and that had to be scary … I have had a lot of operations and my mom never left my side … she takes me to church every Sunday so I can learn about God. I know the best gift I could give her is to give my heart to God.”

She entered the contest without her mother’s knowledge, asking a friend to bring her to the Flyer’s office to drop off her letter.

Her letter went on to say, “She sits night after night at gymnastics practice and rarely complains. She’s my biggest cheerleader … she always finds time for me after a very hard day of work.”

And even though gymnastics is her passion, Madina said, “What I want more than anything is to be an American citizen.”