OVERLAND PARK, Kan. - Six months ago, neither Adrianne Orel nor her mother Angie Shinn-Connley would have thought they would be taking a trip together to Las Vegas this week. But thanks for the generosity of strangers and the power of social media, the two are headed to Vegas, a trip of a lifetime for them.
Orel, 22, was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis as a baby. It’s a disease that causes the body to produce thick, sticky mucus that can build up in the lungs, digestive tract and other parts of the body.
“This mucus is the root of all evil in her body,” said Shinn-Connley. “It traps bacteria in her lungs and she can hardly cough it out.”
The disease makes Orel physically weak and she struggles to keep weight on her body. She has difficulty eating because her body has trouble breaking down food.
“She lives in tremendous pain, and she doesn't complain and she doesn't ask ‘why me,’” said Shinn-Connley.
Instead she focuses on her goals and dreams. After spending so much time in hospitals over her lifetime, she wants to, one day, help others who have to do the same.
“To be a nurse-anesthetist, that's still what I really want to be,” said Orel. “Even though I know it's a long time from now and it's probably still a lot of school, I still have the dream and the hope to help someone like myself some day.”
Despite all the challenges she faces, like respiratory treatments daily, Orel perseveres, fighting the disease and living her life.
Like a dream come true, Orel and her mother are traveling to Las Vegas, a trip they didn’t think would be possible.
“My mind is still reeling,” said Shinn-Connley. “I mean, to tears at times because the compassion of people that are strangers to me, that would want to do this for us.”
A few months ago, Shinn-Connley joined a home-based jean company called Vault Denim. The company is holding its convention in Las Vegas this week.
Shinn-Connley had told her company sponsor, Christine Barbour, how much she wanted to go. But said she couldn’t leave Orel and finances would be tight.
Barbour asked if she could share their story on the company’s convention Facebook page one evening.
“Literally within that evening, this whole thing came together,” Shinn-Connley said. “When one person volunteered her reward points to Adrianne's air fare and then another person offered to help with mine. Somebody offered a night of hotel room and somebody offered convention tickets.”
These womens’ generosity is overwhelming to Orel and her mother, still shocked that total strangers would be so giving to someone they don’t know.
“I don't know how else I would be able to do this,” Orel said tearfully. “I get to go with my mom. My mom is my best friend. It makes it more fun now, knowing I get to go with her and I get to meet all these people who pitched in to help me.”
Orel calls herself a normal kid, no one special. Something others clearly do not believe.
“She gets messages every day about what an inspiration she is to people because she fights and fights this disease,” said Shinn-Connley.
And the women at Vault Denim are no exception.
“People I don't even know, put something together for someone they don't even know,” Orel said. “I mean, it's wonderful!”
They hope by sharing their story, they will raise awareness about cystic fibrosis.
“What I hope people learn about CF is that it's an invisible disease usually, until it gets into the more advanced stages,” said Shinn-Connley. “And a cure is so close.”
And she said the only way for doctors will find a cure is more awareness and money for research.
“If you ever get a chance to donate to a cause, I just want people to keep Cystic Fibrosis Foundation in mind,” Shinn Connley said.
So a young woman like Orel, can have a bright future.
“I want to experience as much as I can,” Orel said.
To learn more about cystic fibrosis or to help find a cure, visit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s website http://www.cff.org/ .
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