NEWPORT, R.I. (WPRI) — Monday was no ordinary day for Christine Abatiello.
The 72-year-old spent her afternoon getting a bird’s eye view of Newport in a helicopter.
The adventure was made possible by TLC 4 LTC, a nonprofit organization dedicated to granting the wishes of nursing home residents across the Ocean State.
“I had never been in a helicopter before,” Abatiello said. “I want to get to do what I can while I’m mobile.”
Abatiello was diagnosed with ALS, a rare neurological disease that primarily affects the nerve cells responsible for controlling voluntary muscle movement, when she was 70 years old.
“One day I couldn’t put my shirt on,” she recalled. “That’s when I started realizing something was wrong.”
It took Abatiello’s doctor a couple of years to properly diagnose her.
“I was diagnosed on April Fool’s Day,” she said. “I looked at them and said, ‘You’re not kidding,’ and they said, ‘No.'”
But Abatiello refused to view the diagnosis as a death sentence.
“It’s a challenge, believe me, but I’m a fighter,” Abatiello said. “I’ve already had two possibly terminal cancers, but I’ve fought them and they’re gone.”
“This one isn’t going to go,” she continued. “This one is going to get me, but I’m going to make the best of it.”
And the best of it she’s already made, thanks to TLC 4 LTC’s Pam Bibeault.
Bibeault tells 12 News as soon as she heard Abatiello’s wish, she knew she had to make it happen.
“It makes you very emotional,” Bibeault said. “It’s such a simple thing to do for someone. I wish we could do things like this every day.”
Abatiello doesn’t plan to slow down anytime soon.
When asked what’s next, her answer was simple: eat a Haven Brothers hamburger.
“I’ve been in this state all of my life and I think I’m the only one who hasn’t had one,” she said with a laugh.
Abatiello also told 12 News that her helicopter adventure “killed two birds with one stone,” because she’s always wanted to be on TV.
Unfortunately, not all of Abatiello’s wishes can be granted because of her health.
Abatiello said she’s always wanted to go skydiving, but ALS has forced her to cross that off of her bucket list.
Even though she doesn’t know how much time she has left, Abatiello said she will remain positive.
“I’ve done my crying. I’ve done my grieving … and I’m not going to waste anymore time,” Abatiello said. “I don’t let anything get me down anymore because it’s not worth it. Life is too short.”
Anyone who wishes to donate to TLC 4 LTC can email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.