Slidell family adopts girl facing incredible disabilities
By KEVIN CHIRI
Slidell news bureau
SLIDELL — Amazing, amazing, amazing.
That was the word Lisa Braniff kept using as she talked about 4-year-old Marianna, the second adopted Chinese child that she and husband Rob have now brought to the United States.
“Amazing” is easy to understand when you see the little girl run and play like any other child, but then notice that little “Mary” was born with half of her left leg missing, all of her left hand missing, and most of her right hand missing.
Rob and Lisa, both in their 40s, never envisioned their lives taking such a crazy detour, after both had raised their own children in first marriages.
But prompted in part by a change spiritually that has them living a Christian lifestyle, they said God put it in their hearts in 2004 to begin parenthood all over again, and consider adopting children.
They were led to not only adopt children, but special-needs children, which is just what happened in May, 2008 when they brought home 4-year-old Isabella “Izzy” Braniff . Izzy had been born with a hole in her heart, but is now living a normal life after surgery repaired the problem.
They were introduced to Mary on the trip to pick up Izzy, and since then, have been raising money so they would be ready when it was approved to bring Mary home from an American foster home in China.
That trip happened just three months ago when they made another trip to China, and added Mary to the family.
Mary had never walked in her life, since her left leg was missing from the knee down.
“She always got around on her knees,” Lisa said.
But that changed several weeks ago when she was fitted for a prosthetic leg at Children’s Hospital, and is now running around like any other 4-year-old.
“Amazing, that’s all we keep saying about this little girl,” Lisa said. “We keep watching what she does, and it’s so amazing.”
The rapid progress with the leg was enough, but relatives are equally amazed at how well Mary functions with her hands.
With one hand completely missing, and the other hand having only two nubs as fingers, Lisa said that Mary can still perform virtually any task.
“She writes, cuts with scissors, flosses her teeth—you name it and she can do it. We are so amazed at how she learned to adapt so she could be just like the other kids,” Lisa added.
“Amazing” is also a word Lisa and Rob use when considering the way God has provided financially for the two little girls.
The Braniffs raised money through raffles, yard sales and donations to get the $25,000 it took to adopt Izzy, then they began the process again the second time to get Mary, and again, the money just seemed to materialize.
“This entire journey has shown us over-and-over how much God is in control,” Lisa said. “We knew we needed $25,000 to bring Mary home, but it has floored us to see where the money has come from. We even had a stranger from Illinois call us from an organization there, who had heard about our story, and sent us $6,000. God has provided everything we needed just because we were willing to adopt these two beautiful girls.”
Yet the latest miracle of sorts has now come from the Inner Wheel organization, a branch of Rotary International. The Braniffs said they were recently informed that Inner Wheel picks one child nationally each year who has special needs for prosthetic assistance, and adopts that child from then, until the child is 18.
“We were told that Mary has been adopted, so from now on, all her prosthetic legs and hands are going to be paid for,” she said. “It’s so amazing to see what God has done.”
The prosthetic leg Mary just got from Children’s Hospital cost $15,000, of which 80 percent was paid for through Rob’s own insurance. But then Children’s Hospital agreed to pick up the 20 percent share.
The leg Mary is starting with, which will have to be changed as she grows, is a very basic version that is made to allow her to get around. As she gets older, the leg will be more expensive since it will offer more mobility.
The prosthetic hands can cost nearly $100,000 each since they now have myo-electric prosthetics that are attached to her own nerves. The hands are so incredible that they will work as Mary just thinks about what she wants to do.
“Right now they don’t want to start her with a hand since she isn’t going to use it in a great way until she gets older,” Lisa explained.
The only problem with the prosthetic leg is that Mary is still a very small girl, weighing only 28-pounds even though she is 4 years old, which doesn’t give her enough weight to make the leg operate as efficiently as it could. But watching her run from one side of the room to the other, it is obvious the little girl could care less.
“When we first showed her the leg, she was kind of scared,” Lisa remarked. “But once they put it on her, and she saw she could stand, she kept trying to run around the room. We have had to try and slow her down a little.”
Lisa said that she is the one with the biggest problem, since “I keep wanting to do things for her, and that isn’t helping her. But I’m seeing how capable she is and trying to let her figure out how to do things.”
Rob said that Mary continues to astound the physicians at Children’s Hospital, since she scored over six months ahead of her age mentally, and finished a 10-day physical therapy course in just three days, when she began to work with the new leg.
The family will have an extra special Christmas this year, with much more than ever to be thankful for.
“Mary never had a birthday celebration before, and never had a Christmas,” Lisa said. “So we expect this to be an incredible Christmas. I quit trying to look at the future and figure out what is going to happen next in our lives, since God has shown us that His plan is much better than anything we can think of.”