East Anglian Mustangs roar in to help Bethany celebrate her 21st in style
Car enthusiasts roared into action to help a local woman celebrate her 21st birthday in style.
It was a date Bethany Lee's family feared she would never see having almost died on numerous occasions throughout her life thanks to a genetic illness.
Bethany, who celebrated her landmark birthday on Tuesday (14), has a very rare version of cystic fibrosis - an inherited condition that causes sticky mucus to build up in the lungs and digestive system and can shorten life expectancy in sufferers.
Her proud mum Linda Brown, who together with husband Dave Brown and Bethany's younger brother Harley, 13, organised a special surprise to mark the occasion with the help of owners of Ford Mustang cars in the Wisbech area.
Linda, from Leverington, said: "We almost lost Bethany last Christmas she was in hospital for 16 weeks with kidney and liver failure, she was so ill even the consultants weren't convinced she would survive.
"It's not the first time we've thought we were going to lose her. She has spent a lot of her life in and out of the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, it's almost like a second home.
"She has had many episodes where she has nearly died including when she was a baby, as she was not diagnosed with cystic fibrosis until she was eight months old, which is really unusual. Up to that point she had been in an out of hospital seven times.
"I have never planned anything because every time I have tried Bethany becomes seriously ill and ends up in hospital.
"But she loves Mustang cars. I managed to find one last minute for her to go to prom in, I cried when she walked through the doors to her prom because, we never expected her to make it, and as usual everything had to be done last minute because of her illness.
"Originally we were told her life expectancy was 18, then it went up a bit and then a bit more to 30, but it is better now, because she is on gene therapy treatment - Kaftrio - which has only been available in this country since last summer and so far she is doing really well."
Linda, who was herself diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at the age of 32, after it was discovered Bethany not only had the common Delta 508 gene which causes CF but also a gene that has never been seen before.
"Bethany's case is so complex they wanted to do DNA tests and I said yes and so they looked at my DNA and came back and said I also had CF - I was really shocked as I'm absolutely fine and have never had any symptoms. I have always been able to do sport such as netball, and doctors jokingly say I'm the fattest CF patient they have ever seen because normally people who have it have trouble digesting food," explained Linda.
She added: "I'm under the specialists who keep an eye on me in case I start to develop problems. Fortunately Harley doesn't have CF."
Linda said: "Bethany's 21st was a day we never expected to see, so I wanted to make it as special as possible so I put a call out on Facebook asking if anyone with a Ford Mustang would be willing to bring it over and take Bethany for a spin.
"I had an amazing response from a group known as the East Anglian Mustangs and had not one but seven turn up. Bethany was thrilled, she had the biggest grin. It was a fantastic surprise and Bethany has had a great birthday and I can't thank the car owners enough for taking the time to come over and give her such a special surprise. They really went above and beyond, and we are just so grateful.
"But like every birthday I had mixed emotions. Joy that she is here to celebrate, and fear that it is another year gone, and in the past that would have been another year closer to the deadline that doctors' have given her.
"Now though, with the Kaftrio treatment, which seems to be working - she has never been this well before - there is hope she can start to live a more normal life and enjoy the things a 21-year-old enjoys and just get on with living and hopefully that means a more normal life expectancy too - fingers crossed."