Jaya Franklin: Ambitions of a Writer

image5Passion is not made to be stifled. A life of zest and exuberance is hard to deny. Gifts bestowed upon you from the Creator are made to be fostered, nurtured and given room to grow. Jaya Franklin, Visionary Artistry Magazine’s, production director/editor fully understands this concept of the divine endowment, now more than ever.

It started with an unusual bout of extreme fatigue. “I was really tired all the time. I would sweat while performing the smallest tasks,” recalls Jaya. She continued with her daily routines, taking her son Jakai to school and going to work. When an incessant pain in her right leg began, she knew something wasn’t right. Her leg was beginning to feel numb and she found herself dragging it behind her. On a drive to the doctor, she nearly failed at an attempt to brake. In order to stop her car, she had to use her left foot to reach for the brake pedal while she applied the emergency brake. Jaya knew something was indeed wrong, but she remained positive that all would be okay.

image2She visited a number of doctors, from her obstetrician to a general practitioner to a gastroenterologist. No one could find an answer. Within a week’s time, her health declined rapidly. Fatigue, numbness, severe equilibrium imbalance and, eventually paralysis from the waist down took its toll on Jaya. Her mother had her admitted to the emergency room, where she met with her neurologist. After a number of tests were administered, she finally received an MRI. What was discovered would dramatically alter Jaya’s perspective on life and living.

Jaya was diagnosed with a rare, neurological condition known as acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM). The disease causes inflammation to the spinal cord and brain and, according to www.hospitalnazaerth.com; it affects about eight in one million people each year. Even more concerning about Jaya’s particular affliction with ADEM were the doctors’ inability to find any rational evidence on why Jaya was targeted. She had no recent bacterial/viral infections or any vaccinations, which may lead to ADEM. Doctors were stumped. They recommended that she should be transferred from the hospital to Shepherd Center, Atlanta’s premiere spinal cord and brain injury rehabilitation center. The next three months at the location became a pivotal point in Jaya’s creative development.

image4As soon as Jaya realized the severity of being admitted into Shepherd Center, she knew she’d be in for a fight. However, the staff at the rehabilitation center was trying to prepare her for a different kind of fight: acceptance. “They don’t want to instill false hope. They never tell anyone they’ll walk again. But I always told them I’d walk out of here,” Jaya said. See, Jaya has always been a fighter, pushing herself to surpass “limitations” and boundaries. Her older brother, Jay said, “No one is going to tell her that she can’t do something. Our mom always taught us that the only limitations we have are the ones we put on ourselves.” So it was only natural that Jaya was prepared to fight. But fighting can be stressful, and it has the tendency to wear one down. To keep her sanity while admitted, Jaya turned to her solace: writing.

Journal in hand, she began to recount her daily routines and experiences. When she wasn’t participating in intense group therapy sessions, she was writing. Mr. Craig Williams, one of Jaya’s group members and confidante, recalls seeing her passion for her craft firsthand. “I remember rolling by her room and seeing her on her laptop. First, I wondered how she got a laptop in here,” he said with a chuckle. “I was amazed by how dedicated she was to what she loved doing,” he added. During a time when most would be at their lowest, Williams revealed, Jaya continued to work towards her aspiration as a writer. “We worked hard to uplift each other, but Jaya was the one who continued to encourage us.” Williams admitted that during bouts of depression, Jaya’s words of encouragement and scriptures were what brought him out of his slump.

image1(1)From as long as Jaya can remember, she’s been a writer. So having a notebook by her side was nothing new. Jaya has kept paper and a pen within arm’s reach since before she was even writing legibly. As a young girl, she admired her brother’s talent for creative expression: art, music, fashion. She took pleasure in being able to refine her own talent alongside her big brother. “[My brother] Jay and I always had paper and pencils. I would be writing and he would be drawing,” Jaya said reflectively. While Jay was illustrating the story, Jaya would write it. As Jaya grew older, her writing skills sharpened. When her mother went back to school to obtain her masters degree in Business Administration, she took on the task of diligently proofreading her mother’s college papers. Jaya was only in the sixth grade. This diligent spirit could be felt through the halls of Shepherd Center. Working hard to remain encouraged, Jaya’s positivity and optimism touched many in her midst. “Everybody shined when she was around. She was always encouraging the other patients,” said Ginger Perritt, Jaya’s occupational therapist. Especially encouraged were Jaya’s group therapy members, the self-proclaimed “Fifth Floor Crew.” Daily, the group of five endured strenuous exercises, like wheeling themselves up and down the parking garage ramps, rigorous therapy sessions that included the use of an assisted standing table, and enigmatic brain teasers. Although exhaustive and tiring, the sessions brought the group close together, with Jaya being the greatest inspiration amongst them. Elise Coulson, Jaya’s physical therapist, deemed her “the life of the group.” Even though Jaya was the youngest in the therapy group, she motivated them to work harder, Coulson added.

While she was speaking encouragement to those around her, she continued to be uplifted by her family. Her two-year old son Jakai’s visits pushed her to progress. His unrestrictive energy caused her to fight against the acceptance of the wheelchair that she was confined to. Wheeling him around on her lap, Jaya knew that this was not how she wanted to raise her son. “I couldn’t do anything but pray. God puts you in a position to lean only on him and that was what I did,” she said. Jaya’s visits from her older brother, Jay, were valuable moments as well. The two would talk about everything that was going on outside of the Shepherd Center. “Every time I saw her, she’d be writing,” Jay said. From their discussions on current events to Jaya’s daily journal entries, Jay began to formulate an idea. He mentioned the concept of combining her exceptional writing and his artistic ingenuity with their love of art, music and fashion. Jaya liked the idea, but didn’t really see the full picture. At first. But each time that Jay would visit, he showed her more pieces of the puzzle, until finally, the picture came together beautifully. “I started to get excited,” Jaya exclaimed. She began to input her own ideas for the vision, coming up with creative stories and angles. With continued inspiration from her son and a new venture to work at, Jaya was more determined than ever for life outside of Shepherd Center. Lying in bed one evening, Jaya absentmindedly wiggled her toe. Amazed, she willed herself to do it again. And again. Until finally, she was strong enough to stand on her own and walk with some assistance. By the end of May, her doctors were proud to report on her phenomenal progress. She could go home.

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After being paralyzed for three months and experiencing life without the ability to function as she was used to, Jaya was now armed with an even greater respect for life and God’s vision. With this, she realized that she could no longer put her own vision on hold. Dreams of being an editor of her own magazine had always been one of her ultimate goals and the time had come for her to bring that dream to fruition.

Her time at Shepherd Center showed her the true power of words. Jaya’s never-ending belief that she’d walk out of that center motivated her each day. Her brother Jay’s declarations of creating an online space to showcase the visionary artistry of those who chose to overcome life’s adversaries by stepping outside of the box of discouragement excited the creative fire inside of her. She witnessed how those affirmations could translate into a tangible vision and reveled in their intensity. If her own words and vision had the power to uplift and inspire herself and those around her, then what kind of impact could she have on millions of readers worldwide? By sharing her vision and the visions of other passionate artists, Visionary Artistry has become a gateway for inspiration, motivation and encouragement. Jaya’s rise from sudden paralysis to editor of a burgeoning online magazine is a true testament to what can happen when you envelop yourself in words of power.

-Whitney Renee