Woman With Cerebral Palsy Overwhelmed By Outpouring Of Support
LANCASTER, Pa. — Each morning, Strasburg Borough resident Stephanie Mastriania wakes up around 8:30 a.m. She’ll be lifted from her bed, either by her mom or two brothers, to an electric wheelchair and exit her bedroom. Eventually she’ll make her way to a living room that’s undergone a bit of a facelift recently.
More than 500 cards, filled with messages of encouragement to Mastriania, now cover three of the four living room walls, from nearly top to bottom. Many of the cards are from complete strangers.
“It feels amazing,” Mastriania said. “I never thought this would happen.”
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The cards are part of an outpouring of support Mastriania, 32, has received since LNP — Lancaster Online published a story in late October about the many health challenges she has faced while living with spastic quadriplegia cerebral palsy, and the family reaching out to the public to lift Mastriania’s morale after she returned home from yet another lengthy hospital stay.
Mastriania said the many letters cheering her on have made her feel “a lot happier,” especially since she recently began receiving hospice care at home, a result of her body having reached a point of continually fighting infection.
“And eventually infection is going to take over,” mother Pam Brooks said.
Brooks and one of Stephanie’s brothers, Kyle Mastriania, have taken turns taping each card to the walls of the living room.
“Steph, We miss you! Hope that you can shake it off like Taylor Swift and feel better soon,” reads one message among many that came from the Adult Enrichment Center in Lancaster Township, where Mastriania previously participated in a day program for those with disabilities from ages 18 to 65.
A dozen or so of the cards are handcrafted, like the one of a drawing of Mastriania in a pink shirt and her hands covered in boxing gloves alongside brother in a red shirt and blue cape, with the message: “I thought you could use these gloves to keep up with your hero brother.”
It’s a reference to the efforts Kyle Mastriania has put forward in caring for his sister, including the creation of funny videos of the siblings that he has posted to a TikTok account, which has garnered more than 103,000 followers over the last three years.
A couple cards came to Stephanie Mastriania from children as young as 4 years old, like one from a boy named Patrick, who drew a stick figure with red crayon and shared his thoughts on things he enjoys: “I like playing trains. I have a pug named Pepsi. … I like to play with Midnight. She is a cat.”
Brooks said some messages have come from Amish and Mennonites in Lancaster County.
Other cards have come from nearby churches inviting Mastriania to attend.
Some letters have come from as far away as California, Florida, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Wisconsin.
American Music Theater, located in nearby East Lampeter Township, sent the family tickets to attend an upcoming holiday show.
Mastriania, a Solanco High School graduate, is nearing $900 received in gift cards or store credit to her favorite place to shop: Kohl’s.
State Sen. Scott Martin, a Republican from Martic Township whose office is a half-mile away, made a surprise visit to present Mastriania with a certificate of recognition and a small gift basket filled with Mastriania’s favorite drink (Turkey Hill tea) and whoopie pies crafted in her favorite flavor of cakes (red velvet and chocolate peanut butter).
Mastriania was given a West Lampeter Township Police patch from a pair of officers that dropped by.
“That was emotional,” Mastriania said.
Joan Denlinger, a Lancaster County author who has written a pair of books about being a mother of two children with special needs, stopped in to meet Mastriania and give those books to Brooks.
The cards continue to flow in by the dozens. The highest three-day span came from Nov. 2 to 4. The pieces of mail received in those three days went as follows: 97, 104, 134.
While Mastriania is now receiving hospice care at home, how much longer she will live is unclear. She has already outlived the expectations for someone with her condition — people with severe cerebral palsy have just a 40% chance of living to 20 years old, according to BioMed Central, which publishes peer-reviewed medical research papers.
Lately Mastriania has been dealing with pressure sores.
“It’s been rough,” she said.
The many cards filled with uplifting messages have boosted her spirits.
Asked what she’d like to say to those who have shown support, Mastriania said, “Thank you for being so kind.”
© 2023 LNP
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC
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