Iowa girl’s bucket-list trip to KC creates lasting connection, return visit

Published: Nov. 14, 2023 at 10:56 PM CST
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - When Breia Lastovka began losing her eyesight, her parents asked her what places she wanted to see before her eyes stopped working. That’s what brought them to Kansas City in July. What brought them back this fall was the people.

The family drove three hours from a small town near Des Moines to get donuts for her 7th birthday party on November 14.

The happy screams of children echoed through the donut shop Sunday morning as Breia’s dad tried to wrangle her younger brother and sister. By the window with Breia was a woman she didn’t know until this summer. Ashley Mizell is a social media influencer in KCK who chronicles her life as a blind mom of boys. They showed each other their canes. They hugged.

“I’m just happy she’s blind, because I love her too,” Breia said.

“When you walk with a cane, you get attention, you get people looking at you. You’re vulnerable,” Mizell said. “This little girl walks around with confidence and she can barely see.”

When KCTV5 did a news report about Breia’s bucket list wish, Mizell’s followers began tagging her. “You should meet her,” they said. That first meeting happened at Donutology, because donuts are one of Breia’s favorite things, along with unicorns.

That first hug over donuts in July led to a bond that left Breia asking repeatedly, “When can we go back?”

But they aren’t the only two who bonded. Breia’s mom, Alyssa, found a new best friend. They have texted or talked nearly every day since they met.

“She’s my girl. She’s my rock,” Mizell said about Alyssa. “I called her this morning just to ask her to help me with my makeup.”

“She is my person,” said Alyssa. “She is the person I go to when I am sad or I need some advice or just want to vent, she’s the one I text.”

Mizell lost her sight as an adult due to an autoimmune disease called sarcoidosis. Breia’s vision loss is from a condition called Alström syndrome. Mizell’s vision is slowly returning with the help of stem cell treatments. Alström syndrome affects more than just vision. It affects the liver, kidneys, lungs and heart. It’s a reality Alyssa has been trying to protect her kids from. Her oldest, Xander, is 10 years old. He’s a big brother in every way.

“If they need help reaching something, you can lift them up,” he said when asked what big brothers do. “And when you play a game, you should let them win, at least once, or like half of the time.”

When asked to talk about Breia, surrounded by custom unicorn donuts with rainbow sprinkles, his first response wasn’t about her hugs or her smiles or her positive attitude. It was about the condition she has. He’d been researching in secret.

“I looked up, ‘Is there a cure for Alström syndrome?’ And guess what my answer was? It was a no. It was very sad,” Xander said. “Because I don’t like what the symptoms are. It can cause weight loss, death…. The heart can stop.”

Alyssa and Ashley squeezed each other’s hands.

“I’ve never heard him say that before,” Alyssa said afterward. “And it hurt because I didn’t want him to know. But he had to find out at some point. And he’s taken it so well.”

He’d been doing more than just asking questions. He’d been formulating a plan.

“When I grow up, I’m going to become a scientist,” Xander said. “I’m going to get DNA of it, of the Alström syndrome, and then, you know how they make anti-venom things? I’m going to make something like that anti-Alström’s.”

“I didn’t know that he knew, at all,” Alyssa said. “He’s strong. He’s stronger than me.”

Maybe so. Or maybe she was in just the right place and time, and with just the right person, to be stronger together.

Alyssa’s advice for others dealing with a difficult situation?

“Don’t ever forget there is someone,” she said. “I thought I was alone in this. And I’m not. I have Ashley. There’s always somebody out there.”