The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Z_CNHI News Service

August 16, 2013

'Miracle baby' becomes competitive gymnast, longs to be U.S. citizen

PLAINFIELD, Ind. — 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, 10-year-old Madina French is a thriving young lady living in this Indianapolis suburb, with Olympic aspirations and a desperate desire to become an American citizen.

"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.

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."

Deanna said she has spoken to attorneys about her daughter's citizenship, but there has not been any progress.

Without a Social Security number, Madina is also unable to get medical insurance. She said leans on her church family at Plainfield Christian Church for help with Madina's care.

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

When Madina came to the United States at 10 and a half months old, 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."

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