A Bel Air girl, who has the same rare disease as the heroine in a new movie, "Miracles From Heaven," was given a free screening of the film from Sony Pictures and a limo ride to Regal Cinema in Abingdon, where she was joined Thursday night by her classmates.
Mickey Brietenback, mother of 14-year-old Macey, had been shocked to learn the young girl in the movie "Miracles From Heaven" suffered from the same digestive disorder as her daughter.
Macey was born with intestinal pseudo-obstruction, a smooth-muscle disorder that severely inhibits digestion and can cause malnutrition, bacterial overgrowth and weight loss, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
After seeing "Miracles From Heaven" about a week ago and preparing for what she expects to be her daughter's final exploratory surgery, Brietenback wrote a letter to New Covenant Christian School, which Macey attends, asking its families to pray for her.
A friend wondered if she could get the whole school to see the movie and ultimately got in touch with a publicist from Sony Pictures who gave the family 80 free movie tickets and agreed to let them hold a private screening at Regal Cinemas, Brietenback said.
Macey was picked up "in a pink limo with eyelashes" and taken to the special movie screening, where Macey, who was wearing a black baseball cap from Sony Pictures, was excited to hang out with her friends and stayed busy greeting dozens of people who crowded the lobby for the screening.
"I don't really get out of the house much and it's hard to do anything fun because I am always feeling sick, and it's hard for my friends to meet up," she said.
"I am so thankful to Sony. They don't even understand how much this means to me that I got free tickets for my family," she said, explaining it gives her friends and everyone at her school the chance to understand what she has been going through.
Her parents said she had to take pain medicine in order to make it out for the movie.
"Being a Christian school, it kind of all tied in with these kids praying for Macey since she was 4 [years old]," Macey's mother said earlier in the day, explaining that her daughter returned to New Covenant in fourth grade, but got very sick in sixth grade and has not returned to school in two years.
Macey has had more than 50 surgeries and the surgery scheduled for Friday would be her third exploratory operation in 14 months, Mickey Brietenback said.
"She [Macey] said, 'I am not getting well,' so I decided to put a letter out to the school asking people to pray," she explained.
Macey looks like a normal teenager, except for the specialized equipment, frequent pain and side effects like dehydration she is prone to, Mickey Brietenback said.
"It's such an invisible disease," she said.
In "Miracles from Heaven," which was released in March, the young victim, played by Kylie Rogers, ends up recovering from the disease after she has a near-death experience in a tree. Her mother is played by Jennifer Garner, and the cast includes Queen Latifah, who has families ties to Harford County.
Brietenback said she hopes the movie, and New Covenant's support of Macey, can at least help others with the same disorder.
A Facebook group called "Pray For Macey" had more than 4,000 members as of Thursday.
"I think the thing that strikes me the most is, I am a Christian, my kids go to a Christian school, and I have struggled with praying," Mickey Brietenback said. "It just seems like maybe I don't get a miracle, maybe Macey doesn't get well, but maybe something happens that I don't see."