Alumna loses lifelong fight with cystic fibrosis; community mourns

Member of the 2016 graduating class Mariana McConnie passed away January 19 after a 20 year battle with cystic fibrosis (CF), leaving a legacy of compassion and brightness behind on the community.

Cystic fibrosis is an incurable genetic illness that often causes extreme difficulty breathing as well as lung infections. McConnie was an advocate for other people with cystic fibrosis during her lifetime, doing interviews with WUSA9 and the Pittsburgh Tribune to raise awareness and speak about her experience with CF.

Yoga and physical education resource teacher Christine Di Monte had McConnie as an English student during her time at Blake and expressed appreciation for McConnie’s positivity and the heart-to-heart conversations they would have. “I felt like she was really good at being the light in a dark time,” says Mrs. Di Monte. “She took a really hard life and made it special and bright.”

McConnie underwent two double lung transplants in her lifetime. During her senior year, she spent prom night in Cincinnati, Ohio, attending the dance with Collin Lysaght, the friend of her late organ donor. It was a way for Lysaght to have a piece of his friend with him for his final senior prom, as well as a way for McConnie to show her appreciation for the gift her donor gave her after his life.

Psychology teacher Stephanie Staub expressed admiration for McConnie’s kind disposition and interactions with others in her class. “Regardless of who she was partnered with, she was always friendly and helpful. She was really sweet,” says Ms. Staub.

Aside from being passionate about giving people with CF a voice, McConnie had a deep love for her dogs, friends and family. In her one and a half years at Towson University, McConnie found community in the Delta Phi Epsilon sorority, where she was given the nickname “Mighty Mare” and had her sorority sisters pledge their support to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation as a philanthropic partner to support McConnie.

Despite being affected by her health issues, often having to miss school because of medical complications, Mrs. Di Monte recognized McConnie’s joy for being in the classroom when she could. “I felt like she really appreciated learning,” says Mrs. Di Monte. “When she was at school, she loved to be at school,”

Ms. Staub expressed that McConnie’s optimism and enthusiasm for life were palpable. “I can’t imagine facing the world with such a positive outlook the way she did knowing her years were going to be so much fewer than what I expect to have,” says Ms. Staub.

McConnie’s family encourages those who wish to support them to make a donation to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation in her honor or register as an organ donor to give another person the opportunity that she was given by her lung donor.