CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Turning 16 is always a really big deal for a young lady, but for Abby Wright it's a monumental accomplishment, defying everything medical professionals expected when Abby was born. Abby has opsismodysplasia, a form of dwarfism that causes many health complications.
"We were scared when we first heard her diagnosis because we didn't know what to expect. The unknown was scary," Lisa Wright, Abby's mom told me.
"We were told she would have dwarfism and heart and lung problems. We were also told that most children with opsismodysplasia do not live beyond 5 years old," Lisa said when she and Abby's dad Jim got the news.
But Abby has really blossomed in the last four years. To get around, Abby uses a power chair, she has a trach and in on a ventilator 24/7. None of this has stopped her from embracing life and having faith.
"We look for all the blessings and things that we can be thankful for instead of dwelling on the hard times," Lisa said of how God leads them through the tough days.
With the love and care of great parents, Abby will soon celebrate her "Sweet Sixteen"! I'm so happy she's thriving! Abby might be small physically, but her spirit is mighty large!
I came to know Abby on a very special night at a really unique and beautiful event, The Sandbox 'An Evening of Believing Prom'. Abby was an honoree at the prom that year. Honorees are young people who have cancer or other life-altering illnesses that make it hard, or impossible for them to attend their own school dances. This is a magical night where kids forget about their diagnosis and just have fun!
The night I met Abby we shared a limo ride as we were escorted to the venue with a motorcade lead by Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Deputies. She was smiling from ear-to-ear.
Before she got involved in The Sandbox, Abby had an anxiety disorder called 'selective mutism'. Abby rarely spoke to anyone outside of family or close friends. She was very shy on that car ride that first night we met in 2012. But slowly, as the evening progressed, she started to feel more at ease.
"Since being part of The Sandbox, she has found her voice and loves chatting with others now," Abby's mom says.
That night was beyond Abby's wildest dreams. She was crowned Prom Queen and has now gone from an honoree to a youth mentor.
"Each honoree is paired with a youth mentor who walks the journey with the honoree throughout the year," Mara Campolungo, Executive Director of The Sandbox told me.
"These are really important relationships for these kids, and I'm so proud of our Abby for how much she's matured, and how she is now helping others," Mara said.
Abby is one of those people who could rightfully look at her challenges and be discouraged, or think of all the things she can't do. Instead, her parents say she inspires them.
"Abby has a 'let's find a way' attitude. She inspires us each and each and every day," Lisa told me.
"Abby has an older brother who is serving in the Air Force. She is very proud of him and he has always be very protective of her, when they aren't aggravating each other as siblings do. I believe she has taught us all to never give up and always be thankful," Abby's mom says of the lessons learned from her girl.
"It's hard to believe that she will be sweet 16. We hope that she will find her place in life surrounded by friends and family that love her. On her birthday she wants to do one of her favorite activities, shopping. She is also going to visit a warm beach and enjoy the sun and sand," Lisa said.
Abby, I am so proud to call you my friend! Happy Birthday my 'Sweet Sixteen' on March 24!
The next time you see a child who has limitations physically, remember this beautiful young lady who is living a full life, filled with laughter and love. Abby always reminds me to see the glass half full!
When I told her parents I wanted to make Abby a Mo's Hero, I had an idea of how they would respond!
"She looks for ways to enjoy life and loves to help others. It is a joy to see life through her eyes. She is our hero too," they told me.
Happy Birthday to a beautiful friend, an inspiration, and a young lady who really knows how to make the most out of very minute of this beautiful life! I heart you Abby!