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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — As he traveled down Market Street three years ago during his visit to Philadelphia, Pope Francis kissed 1-year-old Gianna Masciantonio on the head. The Holy Father didn’t realize she had a debilitating brain tumor but the story made headlines and the tumor eventually disappeared.
Nearly three years later, now 3-year-old Gianna Masciantonio is back at her old stomping grounds at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). She was previously diagnosed with Histiocytosis, a blood disorder that eventually formed a brain tumor. It’s now gone and chemotherapy is just a distant memory for Gianna.
“She’s doing great. She’s going to attend preschool this fall. She’s so excited,” said her mother, Kristen Masciantonio.
“Seeing your kid run around and seeing her doing the things she’s doing with what they told us from the beginning is amazing,” said Gianna’s father, Joey Masciantonio.
The Masciantonio family credits their little girl’s recovery to faith and the team at CHOP, including Dr. Phillip Storm and Dr. Amish Shah. They came today to donate $50,000 to CHOP in the name of Gianna’s foundation.
The foundation is called “For the Love of Grace.” Grace is Gianna’s middle name. Greeting her at CHOP on Friday were her two heroes, Dr. Shah and Dr. Storm.
“She’s blown our expectations out of the water in terms of how she’s doing. She’s resilient and she’s tough and instead of taking all this as something to be fearful of, she’s really taking this in stride,” said Shah, a pediatric neuro-oncologist at CHOP.
“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 Storm, the chief of pediatric neurosurgery at CHOP.
Storm is glad he was wrong and now Gianna’s future looks bright. Her parents say the doctors at CHOP, with a touch of faith from Pope Francis three years ago, saved Gianna’s life.
“This place (CHOP) is so special to us in our heart,” said Joey Masciantonio. “What they did for Gianna is something for us that no amount of money could ever repay, but we just want to help the kids.”
The Masciantonio family is partnering with Jimmy Choo to raise money for Gianna’s foundation. You can visit them at the Jimmy Choo store at King of Prussia Mall on Sept. 22 from 1-3.