NEW CASTLE, Pa. —
Brittany's muscles continued to atrophy and, by age 8, when she was in third grade, she began to lose her ability to get around. The Chiezes found that a wheelchair was the only choice. At age 14, she was placed on a ventilator and was not able to return to school.
Brittany keeps in touch with classmates through visits and Facebook. Her escort for homecoming, Rocco Fiorilli, was a longtime friend.
"He's not a boyfriend, just a friend," Brittany said, adding with a laugh, "a really cute friend."
Brittany's long-term prognosis is uncertain, although many patients with conditions similar to hers do not live more than 10 to 14 years.
Rochelle said Brittany does not dwell on the negative, and that is what sustains them.
"She's a happy person," Rochelle said. "She has an unbelievable attitude and it is contagious to everyone around her. She has been through a lot in her young life and has never complained."
Brittany simply refuses to give in to her disease.
"I live one day at a time," Brittany said with a smile that sparkled as much as her crown. "That's all you can do. I think I'm a pretty lucky girl."
Kayleen Cubbal writes for The New Castle (Pa.) News.