Fighting for Finley

“I would imagine that if you interviewed 99 percent of the women who come out of Carlow, you will get the same answer. We were taught to be leaders.”

Jennifer Pletcher and her daughter, Finley.

Jennifer Pletcher knew her then three-year-old daughter, Finley,was having a tough time seeing.  The signs were all there.Finley was a bit clumsy, stood way too close to the television, andhad this curious way of tilting her head sideways when she lookedat her picture books.

Pletcher, a 1997 graduate of Carlow University’s School ofNursing, suspected Finley (pictured right) needed glasses. What she didn’t know wasthat glasses would never help.

After multiple doctor visits and numerous tests, Pletcherlearned her daughter had Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis (LCA), a raregenetic eye disease. Twenty different types of LCA have beenidentified, but only 4 percent of all LCA cases — about 75people — have the same type as Finley, known as RDH12 after theaffected gene. There is no cure, and every child who has LCA — nomatter the type — ends up blind.

Pletcher and her husband, Mat, soon began attending conferences,where they met Jean Bennett, MD, abiomedical researcher and the F.M. Kirby Professor of Opthalmologyat the University of Pennsylvania who had discovered a cure usinggene therapy for one type of LCA.

Together with the other families who had children with the sametype of LCA, they formed a 501(c)3 non-profit, RDH12 Fund for Sight, and began fundraising.In just a few months they presented Bennett with a check for$70,000-the amount she needed to start the research into Finley’stype of LCA.

The Pletcher family (leaders of the “Finley’s Fighters” team) smiles at the starting line of the Finley’s Fighters walk/run.

Pletcher has no doubt about where her resolve to fight forFinley originates.

“My experiences at Carlow helped shape my life and my attitude,”she said. “Carlow makes strong nurses and strong women. When Finleywas diagnosed, I built on that strength. I knew that I could dothis, and that I had to do it.”

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