While we were attending the Abilities Expo in Houston we met Alana (Lana) Ashley Little. Throughout our travels we regularly meet up with people with disabilities who have had to overcome incredible obstacles but Lana’s story was particularly striking. According to her grandmother, Lana was diagnosed with Ataxia Telangiectasia (A-T), a rare recessive genetic disorder that hides in the genes and is neuro-degenerative and progressive meaning there is no cure and it is fatal. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Lana was born into a world of mental illness, homelessness, drug and alcohol abuse and never saw a pediatrician, nor immunization shots or formula. Due to the many problems of her parents Lana and her little brother, Alex, were saved when her maternal grandparents were able to win custody of both in 2005 when Lana was just 15 months old. Lana’s mother died in 2009 from a drug overdose and her father’s rights have been terminated.
A-T is very rare disease with roughly 500 cases in the United States and only 1,000 worldwide and it combines the worst symptoms of Muscular Dystrophy, Cerebral Palsy, Cystic Fibrosis, immune system deficiency and a chance of having cancer that is 1,000 times greater than an average person. The A-T disease has wreaked havoc on Lana’s body destroying her cerebellum and disabling her immune system. At the age of two Lana started using a wheelchair to deal with the fatigue that A-T causes. Added to the many problems Lana has faced the drug use of her parents during pregnancy have exacerbated the conditions she struggles with on a daily basis. Yet despite all the troubles this little girl had to face, she refuses to let people feel sorry for her or pity her. She has testified at the Texas State Capital for the preservation of Medicaid and been recognized by the Senate for her work educating others about children with disabilities. She also boldly entered and won the Little Miss Wheelchair Texas pageant and now is the reigning 2012 champ. Lana was also nominated through Facebook to be a Push Girl, a recognition for someone who overcomes obstacles in life and few can match the trials and tribulations Lana has had to face and overcome.
While we were at our booth in Houston we were fortunate to meet with Lana and her grandmother who stopped by. Lana’s grandmother bought Lana the Imperial Blue designer carryall bag that Lana had selected. Lana was upbeat and personable and proudly wore her tiara for being Little Miss Wheelchair Texas 2012. We were genuinely touched by Lana’s story and to meet her in-person was an honor. How someone so young can face a life with so many painful and demoralizing obstacles and maintain a positive outlook is something everyone can learn from. We salute you, Little Miss Wheelchair Texas, and hope your story can inspire others as much as it inspired us. We hope you really enjoy our bag too!