Freshman faced with fight for life

Patty Vaughan

Sixteen has always been pinned as a difficult age, but for Blaise Finnegan, passing his driving test was only the beginning.

Now a freshman at the University majoring in mechanical engineering, Blaise and his sister, Madeline Finnegan, who is a freshman at Huntsville High School, were both diagnosed with Fanconi Anemia and Aplastic Anemia, which are diseases of the bone marrow and blood that can often lead to Acute Myeloid Leukemia. Blaise found out when he was just 16 years old and only two months after his sister was diagnosed.

“She started feeling sick, so she went to the doctor,” Blaise said. “They took a blood count, and they found out that she had the disease. When I got tested, I also found out that I had it too.”

Blaise said he used to play soccer in high school, but he had to eventually quit his junior year. The doctors told him and his sister that they could not be a part of any physical sports because they bruise so easily.

Even though he is unable to take part in aggressive sports, he is able to partake in other activities at the University. Blaise is a member of Pi Kappa Phi, which recently teamed up with Chi Omega to put on a bone marrow registry drive in honor of Blaise and his sister.

Along with his membership in a fraternity, Blaise is a member of Crossing Points, which is collaboration between the University’s Special Education & Multiple Abilities Department in the College of Education and the Tuscaloosa City and County School Systems, according to their Web site.

“[Even] with the limitations, I have gotten to be part of the Make-a-Wish foundation and got to go to UFC 101 back in August in Philadelphia to be front row at the fight and meet everyone there so there is also a plus,” Blaise said.

Phillip Dean, a sophomore majoring in finance and a member of Pi Kappa Phi said he has enjoyed getting to know Blaise and his situation.

“It has been a very inspiring situation meeting and getting to know Blaise,” Dean said. “When I heard we had an incoming freshman who had been having chemotherapy, I was immediately concerned and worried. After meeting Blaise a few times, I got to know him and more comfortable with his condition. I think of him as any other brother, now.”

Blaise said that his family connection has only gotten stronger with time while he and his sister continue to fight the disease that they both have.

“I feel that our relationship together has definitely gotten closer because we have something in common that not a lot of brother and sisters have to go through the same illness together,” Blaise said. “We joke around about the topic sometimes with too.”

While both of his parents are carriers, no one in his immediate family matches he or his sister to do a bone marrow transplant.

“My blood count is gradually getting lower,” Blaise said. “We don’t need a transplant right now, but they check our blood count every month, and if it gets to a certain time then that’s when we need to do it. It might not be for another year, or it might be just a few months. But they say usually within the next year or two.”

After the success of the bone marrow registry drive, Dean said he and his fraternity brothers would like to do anything to help Blaise’s family.

“It is hard to imagine such a happy, healthy looking kid is actually slowly dying on the inside,” Dean said. “Blaise is a great young man. He is a wonderful addition to our fraternity and we will forever do what we can to help him and his family.”