Seeing a baby go through an illness is hard on parents.
No one wants to see their child suffer, especially when the baby is too young to articulate itself.
That’s why Joey and Kristen Masciantonio were so happy when their daughter was blessed by the pope.
But not only did they receive the Pope Francis’ blessing but the parents say that the Pope’s actions helped to shrink their daughter’s tumor and eventually have it disappear.
“We believe it was a divine moment,” the parents told NBC News.
But the moment where they received the Pope’s blessing almost didn’t come at all.
Kirsten and Joey line up on Market Street along with hundreds of others in downtown Philadelphia with their two children hours before the Pope would driveway with his motorcade.
As devout Catholics, Joey and Kristen had long dreamed of getting to meet the Pope.
They especially wanted the Pope to meet their baby daughter Gianna who had juvenile xanthogranuloma, a rare blood disorder that affects less than five children in the U.S. every year.
Gianna had a brain tumor and had eight surgeries and several rounds of chemotherapy at the Philadelphia Children’s Hospital during the first 15 months of her life.
Doctors did not expect the child to survive and told her parents to enjoy the time they had with their daughter.
The parents had even planned their daughter’s funeral in advance since they thought she would suffer a premature death. Joey even resisted going to the vent since her immune system had weakened. He didn’t want to expose her to the crowds waiting for the Pope.
But Kristen and the doctors insisted they go. As the family was waiting for the Pope to go by, they got a phone call from an FBI agent friend who was assigned to the Pope’s security personnel along the route.
The agent told them that he had got them passes to see the Pope.
“But we didn’t actually expect that to happen,” Joey said.
The family watched the Pope’s motorcade come down Market Street. Joey said he held his daughter up as high as he could to see if he could get the attention of police officers and FBI agents with the tip-off from their FBI friend so that the Pope would stop by them.
The Pope’s motorcade spotted Joey holding up Gianna and his head security guard Domenico Gianni grabbed the child and brought her to the Pope. That’s when the Pope kissed her on the forehead and gave her a blessing.
“It was the luck of the draw,” said Masciantonio. “We believe it was definitely a divine moment.”
A few weeks later, Gianna’s MRI scans showed that the tumor shrunk to the point where it was almost invisible. It eventually disappeared.
“The kiss was God’s work, that’s for sure,” said Joey. “But, the miracle was Him giving us the platform to reach those doctors who, ultimately, played a major role in saving Gianna’s life.”
Now Gianna’s is 3-years-old and is doing great. She was to attend preschool this fall.
“From what I thought at age 4 months when I operated on her, if you would have told me she’d be running around getting ready to start preschool, I would have told you you’d be crazy. It just wouldn’t happen,” said Dr. Storm, the chief of pediatric neurosurgery at CHOP.
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