Originally published in The Detroit News – June 14, 2019
The pain is constant and so bad it used to keep Emmanuel Franklin in bed.
Even several years after the onset of his neuroimmune disease, the pain is unrelenting.
In that time, Franklin, 17, has gone from his bed to a wheelchair to a walker. Then back to the wheelchair, before the walker, again. Then a cane.
“The doctors are calling it chronic pain,” he said. “It’s just like pain throughout my entire body. It’s in constant pain. Yeah, you just have to deal with it.”
Many high school students face considerable barriers to graduation. But Franklin swatted aside more pain than any life should contain to attend his graduation ceremony Friday at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi.
He now holds a diploma from Michigan Virtual Charter Academy, an online school based in Grand Rapids.
The school, chartered by Grand Valley State University, had 2,919 students in the just completed academic year, according to state data. Its high school curriculum includes math, English, science, history and foreign language courses and offers honors and Advanced Placement classes.
“I just wanted to get through school,” Franklin said. “I just wanted to learn everything. I just wanted to complete high school so I could graduate and get to college.
“I haven’t applied for any colleges yet. But, hopefully, I can get to one soon.”
Being able to attend classes from his Redford home was a big help, Franklin said.
“It’s like a regular school setting, except it’s all online,” he said. “It was way easier than having to go to a brick and mortar school.”
Beside completing high school, Manny Franklin is making progress toward another important goal: becoming independently mobile.
“I had to stay in a wheelchair for a long time,” he said. “But now I can get around the house without any assistance or anything.”
His father, Errol, a Detroit police officer, said logistical issues got in the way of education.
“Because, when he was in regular public schools, someone had to push him around in a wheelchair, and it was very difficult for him just to write anything,” Franklin said. “Teachers would have to assist with him writing notes and stuff.
“So we figured, he can’t even do regular school because he can’t even write.”
Emmanuel’s mother, Enomwoyi, a former math teacher, helped her son with school work.
Both the illness and cause have been difficult to diagnose, even after extensive work at the University of Michigan, though it began after sustained use of steroids to treat Franklin’s asthma.
“Emmanuel is not a kid who cries,” his mother said. “But he shed a lot of tears through this.
“The school would call and say Emmanuel just can’t move and he’s crying and he’s in so much pain.”
Franklin said she recalls asking her son about the intensity of his pain, on a scale of one to 10, and having this answer come back: “100.”
“Sometimes, I think the schooling and having your mind concentrate on other things has helped him physically too,” she said.
Long years of physical therapy and a treatment regime have helped improve his condition.
“Even now, he can write, but the pain still affects him being able to write for long periods of time,” Enomwoyi Franklin said.
The Michigan Virtual Charter Academy set up a special curriculum, she said, and sent a physical therapist to the house.
Franklin was an honors student before the onset of his disease. And, while his final grade point average is not yet reported, his performance is top of the class, his mother said.
“I have a tremendous amount of pride and thankfulness and gratefulness,” she said, recalling how the family has relied on each other, their friends, the faith community of LifeChurch in Southfield and Emmanuel’s great fortitude.
“The depth of what he’s gone through, I don’t think he’s able to articulate.
“He’s such a quiet kid. This last couple of weeks is the most I’ve seen him talk.”
It comes at the end of several years of remarkable persistence, in the life of a 17-year-old.
“There are a lot of times I wanted to quit in brick and mortar school,” Franklin said. “But, I just had to keep working through it.”
Asked what he would tell peers in a similar situation, Franklin said: ”If you need help with anything, just try to get help from your parents or a teacher or somebody you can reach out to, somebody you trust.
“And, if you are going to do anything, just keep working through it. Just keep going on.”
To learn more about Michigan Virtual Charter Academy, visit https://mvca.k12.com/