ENNIS — Wherever the Ennis Mustangs travel to compete, they know their number one fan will be in the stands.
As a baby, Ennis High School graduate Jahnna France was diagnosed with Robinow syndrome, a rare disorder that affects many parts of the body, particularly the skeleton, but that hasn’t kept her from being the Mustangs’ biggest cheerleader.
“Robinow syndrome has a lot of similar (characteristics) to down syndrome in the physical features, and then just a ton of different anomalies that some kids do and don’t have,” Jahnna’s father Todd France said. “Jahnna’s biggest challenge with that Robinow syndrome was the congenital glaucoma that she was diagnosed with. She has had surgery to remove the colored part of one eye due to the glaucoma, and that was probably one of the better surgeries she’s had in her lifetime.”
Jahnna has battled through numerous surgeries, including one at just nine months of age to remove the frontal portion of her skull.
“Synostosis, where the head forms too soon as a baby — they had to go in and remove her frontal skull and basically peel her head and face back and put a plate in,” Todd said. “So, she’s just been through a lot of different surgeries and anomalies all through her life up until the last four years, other than the eye, have been good. Seizure disorders, but, knock on wood, those have been probably five or six years since we’ve had a big seizure event as well, so she’s doing great.”
There are limitations to what Jahnna can do, as she has weak motor skills. Every day presents a new challenge for Todd and the France family, but they embrace it wholeheartedly.
“Jahnna is going to be our girl forever,” Todd said. “It’s very hard for her — she has very poor motor skill with her hands, so she’s not able to do a lot of things such as bathing. We have to make sure we get her good and clean when she bathes. Brushing teeth is hard for her. The other physical challenges, obviously, is the vision. We’re constantly have to be on guard for every litle surface change in the terrain. Every surface feature is a challenge — ice, snow.
“It’s a lot of work, but it’s very rewarding work, and I’d have it no other way,” Todd continued. “One of the things we love to tell our friends, especially when Jahnna was having some of the harder times, they would give us a lot of support, their love, their hugs, their wishes, and maybe something to the effect of ‘Oh you guys, I don’t know how you do it.” My biggest comment to them is ‘Don’t cry for me.’ I still get to be Santa Claus, and I dont think I’ve ever heard the words ‘I hate you daddy.’ It’s always love with her, so we’re very blessed.”
Jahnna’s diagnosis was that she would be blind by five years old, but due to some wonderful doctors she has maintained vision until the age of 21.
“Of course Jahnna doesn’t get to see all the action, but she senses and feels everything around her,” Todd said of Jahnna when she’s at the games. “What she lacks in vision is more than made up for in all of the ways that she can sense everything around her. She senses the excitement of the game, and she loves the excitement of the game. Once in a while, she cheers for the wrong team, but the main thing is that she’s cheering and she’s having a wonderful time.”
Jahnna keeps herself busy in Ennis with her job at the hospital and fly fishing with her dad. Last year, Jahnna caught her first fish, a rainbow trout, by herself on a fly rod.
“I work at the hospital with Mrs. Brown,” Jahnna siad. “Usually I stick (the tools). All the medical tools, we wash them and bag them for the nurses. I usually go fishing with my dad a lot, and sometimes he lets me reel the fish in.”
Ennis senior Danyel Martin shares a special bond with Jahnna, as the two grew up sharing summers together.
“When we were in, like, about fifth grade, our teacher made us wear these goggles to see what (Jahnna) actually saw,” Martin said. “She can’t see anything, and it’s amazing how wonderful she is. She’s always happy. Everyday you see her she always has a smile, she’s always wearing green. She always wants to give you a hug, and when you have a bad day, Jahnna’s there to make you happy.”
“I cheer for Danyel because she usually makes a shot and I scream for her when she makes a shot,” Jahnna said. “She used to go to the lake with us a lot in the summertime.”
“I think the other thing of why Jahnna France is such a big fan is because of the kids,” Todd said. “They’ve been so great to her, and it’s not just the kids that she was with in the 2-3 years around her, but the kids that are up and coming. We’ll be cheering for kids forever.
“One of the things that Jahnna France does the best is that she brings out the pure good in people,” said Todd. “She’s always happy, she’s always joyous, there’s no such thing as a stranger, everybody is her hero, and she loves everybody. It’s a very contagious thing that Jahnna has. We’ve tried to exploit that as much as we can in a manner that is shared with everybody, because we believe that it’s God’s gift that Jahnna France is exposed to and touches as many people’s lives as possible.”