AUSTIN EDITION - COL Another family needs community's strength

We've all heard people say change is a good thing. It certainly can be.

There are moments in our lives, such as when our children are born, when change is welcome. Such moments shake the very essence of our existence and serve notice that life will never be the same.

However, these moments can also be much more egregious in nature, such as the first time you hear the name of the affliction that is causing your child to deteriorate before your eyes. Change certainly isn't always welcome.

For my family, the unwelcome moment was on a summer day in 2001 when my 19-month-old daughter, Josie, was diagnosed with something called Opsoclonus Myoclonus Syndrome.

To put it briefly, OMS begins when the immune system attacks a cancerous tumor called a neuroblastoma. Somehow, the cerebellum, the area of the brain that controls speech and motor function, is essentially caught in the crossfire between antibodies and tumor, leaving the victim unable to walk or talk.


During Josie's ordeal, the show of support from our friends and family was overwhelming. They organized a benefit, "Jammin' for Josie," at the Austin Holiday Inn.Tthe turnout by many Austin residents we didn't even know was more overwhelming still.

Although she continues to confront developmental challenges, Josie has recovered quite miraculously. Now three weeks from her fifth birthday, her insistence upon being a typical little girl is an inspiration.

My wife and I feel that, having ridden the wave of change that swept over our family, we are uniquely qualified to help another family going through similar arduous changes.

Kellie Faith Finney is the daughter of Austin's Nate and Becky Finney. She is 3 months old and suffers from, among other things, central apnea, an affliction that results when the brainstem forgets to tell the central nervous system to breathe.

As with Josie, doctors can't decide on a definite prognosis for Kellie.

It is possible she will outgrow her problem, but for now, in order to prevent her breathing from just stopping, she needs oxygen continuously fed to her through a tube long enough to reach every corner of the house.

To help Kellie's family meet the needs of their special little girl, a breakfast benefit serving pancakes, sausage and eggs is scheduled for Sunday in Cunningham Hall at Queen of Angels Church.

All proceeds from a free-will donation and raffle ticket sales will assist in paying Kellie's medical expenses, including those incurred during the three weeks the family spent at Children's Hospital while Kellie underwent tests.


For those unable to attend but who wish to contribute, donations also are being accepted at Home Federal Savings Bank in Austin.

Someone once said, "That which fails to conquer us only makes us stronger."

No, change isn't always welcome, but people are resilient; we adapt. We overcome. My family did, and so will Becky and Nate Finney.

More than anything, what the Finneys need right now is support. I have witnessed firsthand Austin's capacity for rallying around one of its own in a time of need, and it warms the heart. It's the greatest benefit of living in a small community.

So let's get jammin' again, Austin. This time it's for Kellie.

Jeff Reinartz is a freelance writer and lifelong Austin resident.

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