With love, teens face a deadly diagnosis

Dec 19, 2010

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. -- As she walked through the door, Sabrina Parker's big hazel eyes flared with surprise and she raised a hand to her mouth to stifle a gasp. She was a huge fan of the "Twilight" book and movie series, and her friends and family had transformed this greasy garage into a Sweet 16's dream.

Homemade strobe lights illuminated walls decorated like the night sky and plastered with cast posters. All around were balloons in red, white and black. An enormous cake, iced to look like the chess board on one of the book jackets, held 16 blazing candles.

The crowd began chanting for Sabrina to blow them out. She bent in close and blew, but the flames barely flickered. She straightened up and shook her head. Realizing her distress, Matt Scozzari stepped closer and told her they would do it together. On the count of three, they leaned in and snuffed them out together.

In the three months since he'd first asked her out, Matt had noticed small changes in his girlfriend: The shortness of breath, the slurring in her speech, the weight loss. When he'd ask what was going on, Sabrina would just shrug it off as nothing serious.

But Sabrina knew her condition was very serious.

About a month after she started seeing Matt, Sabrina learned that she had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease - the same illness that had killed her mother and grandmother. A doctor told Sabrina it wouldn't be long before she would have to decide whether to go on a ventilator.

She'd told her closest friends about her condition, but she hadn't been able to bring herself to tell Matt.

Matt had been so sweet and gentle. For her Sweet 16, he'd bought matching pewter replicas of Bella's and Edward's rings from "Twilight: New Moon," inscribed with the words, "What would I do without you?"

How would he react when he found out she had this horrible, wasting disease - that she was dying?

She was petrified. She had already lost so much, and would lose so much more in the coming months.

She didn't want to risk losing Matt, too.

In Sabrina's favorite song, there's a refrain that goes: "Time slows down/Whenever you're around/Can you feel/This magic in the air?"



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