McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

Features

October 3, 2013

Teen with neuromuscular disease crowned homecoming queen

NEW CASTLE, Pa. — Brittany Chieze has not been able to attend Shenango High School in New Castle, Pa., since a debilitating neuromuscular disease left her fighting for her life three years ago.

But members of the school's student body never forgot about the beautiful brunette who lights up a room with her smile, rallying around her during what would have been her senior year of school — first voting her onto homecoming court, then showing their selflessness by naming her queen.

The 17-year-old was crowned during an emotional ceremony at halftime of Friday's game, then reigned at Saturday's homecoming dance.

For one weekend, Brittany flew so high that the wheelchair that envelops her tiny, 60-pound body did not matter. The ventilator she uses to stay alive seemed to be invisible. And a lifetime of pain and medications and doctors were nothing more than distant memories.

"It was," her mother said, "the best night of her life."

Rochelle Chieze admits she panicked at first when she learned her daughter had been placed on the school's homecoming ballot.

"I started thinking about the germs from being around so many people and how tired this would make her," Rochelle said. "Even though she was thrilled — we all were — I went back and forth. I thought maybe we should say no."

But Brittany knew what she needed to do.

"Let me live, mom," Brittany said resolutely.

Brittany seemed healthy when she was born in 1996, the fourth child of Rochelle and Art Chieze. But her parents began to worry when she was slow to start walking, and fell down frequently as a preschooler.

It took trips to several doctors and hospitals in Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Cleveland before Brittany was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy, a genetic disease characterized by progressive degeneration of motor neurons in the spinal cord, one that causes weakness and wasting of the muscles.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Features
Seasonal Content
AP Video
US Ready to Slap New Sanctions on Russia Kerry: Not Worried About Israeli Criticism Boater Rescued From Edge of Kentucky Dam Girl Struck by Plane on Florida Beach Dies Rodents Rampant in Gardens Around Louvre House to Vote on Slimmed-down Bill for Border Looming Demand Could Undercut Flight Safety Raw: 2 Shells Hit Fuel Tank at Gaza Power Plant Raw: Massive Explosions From Airstrikes in Gaza Giant Ketchup Bottle Water Tower Up for Sale Easier Nuclear Construction Promises Fall Short Kerry: Humanitarian Cease-fire Efforts Continue Raw: Corruption Trial Begins for Former Va Gov. The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating
NDN Video
Weird 'Wakudoki' Dance Launches Promotional Competition Chris Pratt Adorably Surprises Kids at a 'Guardians of the Galaxy' Screening Chapter Two: Designing for Naomi Watts NOW TRENDING: Peyton Manning dancing at practice "The Bachelorette" Makes Her Decision Thieves pick the wrong gas station to rob Golden Sisters on '50 Shades' trailer: 'Look At That Chest!' Staten Island Man's Emotional Dunk Over NYPD Car - @TheBuzzeronFOX GMA: Dog passes out from excitment to see owner Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted 'Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1' Sneak Peek Florida Keys Webcam Captures Turtles Hatching Morgan Freeman Sucks Down Helium on 'Tonight Show' Robin Wright Can Dance! (WATCH) She's Back! See Paris Hilton's New Carl's Jr. Ad Big Weekend For Atlanta Braves In Cooperstown - @TheBuzzeronFox Chapter Two: Becoming a first-time director What's Got Jack Black Freaking Out at Comic-Con? Doctors Remove 232 Teeth From Teen's Mouth Bradley Cooper Explains His Voice in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.