'Real World: San Diego' cast member Frankie Abernathy dead at 25
By Steve Rogers and Christopher Rocchio, 06/12/2007
Former The Real World: San Diego housemate Frankie Abernathy has lost her battle with cystic fibrosis and died at age 25.
Abernathy's mother, Abbie Hunter, confirmed the Kansas City native's death, which was first reported by The Pitch, an alternative weekly newspaper in Kansas City on Monday evening, to MTV News on Tuesday afternoon.
"It was very sudden," Hunter told MTV News. "It wasn't something that was expected. She was doing fine, and we really don't know very much yet. It still was kind of a shock, and it just wasn't how we figured things would go. It seems like her little body just gave out."
According to Hunter, Abernathy, who died in her mother's Shorewood, WI home on Saturday evening, had moved to Wisconsin with her family last fall and over the winter, her health began to worsen. An official cause of death has not yet been determined.
"It was a day-by-day thing," Hunter told MTV News. "Some days she felt good, and some days she felt bad. We were kind of hoping to get her [on a list] to see if she would qualify for a lung transplant, because the disease does get progressively worse. In the winter, most [people with cystic fibrosis] usually have a rough patch, and she had a rough patch this year. She had been sick more this last year than she'd ever been in the past. I am very grateful that it was very quick for her. It certainly made it hard for the survivors. She's just our little girl."
The Real World: San Diego premiered on MTV in 2004. At the time, MTV's promotional materials described Abernathy, who had been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis when she was 3-years-old, as someone who "likes to shock people with her appearance, date bad boys, party all night and dreams of being an artist."
Abernathy appeared in 22 The Real World: San Diego episodes before deciding to leave the cast. She was replaced by Charlie Dordevich, a new housemate that appeared in the show's last three episodes.
"Her experience on The Real World taught her about what she needed to do, and it helped other people as well," Hunter told MTV News. "I know several people weren't aware of the cutting epidemic at the time and I know several people wrote Frankie and thanked her," Hunter said, alluding to a The Real World incident in which Abernathy intentionally cut herself with a kitchen knife.
"She was a different person for The Real World realm, and I think she touched a lot of people and made an impact on a lot of people's lives. That's what you want when you have a child -- you hope they do that," Hunter continued. "I wish it had been in a different way, but I am proud of her, and as I said, she got a lot of personal growth out of her experience, and she was very fortunate to have had the experiences she did."
According to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, cystic fibrosis is a life-threatening genetic disease that causes mucus to build up and clog some of the organs in the body, particularly in the lungs and pancreas, and leads to lung damage. Approximately 30,000 Americans have cystic fibrosis. An additional ten million Americans are carriers of the defective gene but do not have the disease. Currently there is no cure for cystic fibrosis. As of 2005, the disease's predicted median age of survival was 36.5 years.
According to MTV News, Abernathy is survived by her mother, her sister Mamie, her stepfather Perry, and her father Joe Abernathy, who now lives in Texas.
Services will be held in Blue Springs, MO on Saturday morning. According to Hunter, a scholarship fund has been established in Abernathy's name at Blue Springs High School, her alma mater. In lieu of flowers, fans can send donations to the Frankie Abernathy Scholarship Fund, c/o Jackie Langston, 1205 NW Roanoke Drive, Blue Springs, MO, 64015.