North Manchester rallying around miracle baby Finley Terflinger
NORTH MANCHESTER — A couple months ago, Kara Terflinger and her daughters were in the grocery store when a woman walked up to look and coo at 6-month-old baby Finley. At first, the woman was baffled why the baby looked so familiar.
“Wait a minute!” she finally exclaimed. “It that Finley? Finley Fierce! I follow her on Facebook!”
Lots of people want to believe in miracles, but have they ever actually seen one? There are about 6,000 people in North Manchester who are helping one happen.
When Finley Terflinger was born Sept. 14, her parents Tim and Kara drove to Lutheran Hospital in 18 minutes and she arrived almost as quickly, less than 30 minutes after they walked in the door. That’s been about the only easy part of her or their lives since. They named her Finley Sloane because both mean “warrior” but had no idea she would fight so hard to live up to them.
They came home after one day, but whenever Kara would nurse, sweat beads would pop up all over Finley’s head. She would also suck and suck but half the milk always spilled out her mouth.
“She had this smell,” Kara said, “and I know how weird it sounds, but she smelled like disease.”
“She was always warm when she was sleeping,” Tim said. “When she would eat, when she got done it sounded like she had to cough to clear her throat and that never went away.”
Kara, the mom of a son and four girls (Nicholas 16, Trinity 13, Avery 10, Maggie 9 and Remington 2) before Finley, brought her concerns to the pediatrician a week later, and the doctor suggested Finley was a hot sleeper and her throat problem was likely laryngomalacia, a partial airway obstruction of which 90 percent eventually disappear. An appointment with an Ear Nose and Throat specialist was set for February, but then everyone in the family got sick around Christmas. As Kara was checking everyone’s temperatures, Finley’s was highest, about 102 degrees.
Another trip to the doctor suggested an ear infection, the first of three in a row requiring 10-day antibiotic prescriptions. Somehow, Finley maintained her weight and matched the growth charts, but then she spiked a 105-degree temperature and bloodwork tests started.
Three days later, the results showed a blast cell which can be a precursor to acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a cancer. It could also be a false positive so more tests were ordered, and Finley was sent to Lutheran Hospital for a 48-hour observation. That night she didn’t have a fever and the bloodwork and chest x-ray came back negative so she was sent home after 24 hours.
Next, she was sent to an infectious disease specialist, and then back to a cardiologist for more x-rays which found fluid around Finley’s heart. She was moved to Riley’s Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis on Jan. 25, and that’s when doctors told the Terflingers there was a 6-centimeter by 6-centimeter tumor in Finley’s chest putting pressure on her airway. The fluid around her heart was leaking from the tumor.
At first, doctors weren’t sure if it was AML or Langerhans cell histiocytosis (LCH) which is another rare cancer from abnormal blood cells produced by bone marrow. AML often produces LCH markers and vice versa, though it’s treatment is less aggressive than AML, meaning more tests. Eventually, genetic testing was ordered when doctors disagreed on the diagnosis.
The Terflingers were sent home Feb. 10, but Finley got sick again on Feb. 14, meaning another ambulance back to Lutheran and then another to Riley the next day. During her ride to Indianapolis, her heart rate was 260 and her temperature rose from 99 to 104 degrees in a half hour. While waiting for the genetic testing results, she spent 21 of February’s 28 days at Riley, scaring her parents to death.
“Everything was `What if? What if? What if?’ ” Kara said.
Throughout, Finley has always been a smiling, happy baby. She didn’t know she was sick and loved being picked up and spoiled by her sisters and grandparents.
Inspired by a “Finley the Fighter” Facebook page designed by Kara’s cousin Katie Jo Lemming, everyone in North Manchester followed along and kept praying.
“I strongly believe that we’ve gotten through 100 percent of what we have by posting what’s going on with her and knowing that all of those people praying for her,” Kara said.
Especially after the genetic testing came back as LCH, the lesser of the two possibilities because chemotherapy for that treatment is much less severe. Finley never lost any weight or hair. The prescribed treatment was weekly for seven weeks and followed by every three weeks up to a year.
“That was a God thing,” Tim said.
Except that’s when the real miracle happened. After the first seven weeks of treatment, scans showed the tumor had disappeared.
Throughout all of these trials, the North Manchester community has stepped up to help. Meals were left for the older kids, Congregational Christian Church hosted a “Finley Fierce Day,” the American Legion Post 286 hosted a dinner and concert, hair stylists donated to an auction, motivational bracelets and “Finley Fierce” T-shirts went on sale, a motorcycle club held a ride and money was donated to pay the family’s bills. A page at https://www.youcaring.com/terflingerfamily-1088549 has raised more than $7,000 to help, and the Waldo Golf Club is hosting a tournament on June 24. There has been plenty of anonymous help, and Tim’s employers at Midwest Poultry have continued constant support.
“There’s not enough `Thank yous’ to… not a way to…” Kara said. “It’s still overwhelming seeing people post spring break pictures from all over the country wearing her shirts.”
There are so many little episodes of help that have added to this run of blessings the Terflingers don’t know how they can possibly say “thank you” but they are going to try. They will host Finley’s first birthday party in September at Art’s Country Park and they are inviting the community. Along with celebrating Finley, they’ll celebrate the town that continues to help them pull through.
Throughout the continual tests, the Terflinger’s faith continues to grow.
“When you go to church and hear stories about this or that happening, you never think that could happen to your family,” Kara said. “You have faith and believe that happened for them, awesome for them, but it wasn’t firsthand for you. When it’s firsthand, it’s like `Wow!’ ”
Finley is still fighting every day, usually to stay awake. Because she’s on steroids, she’s constantly restless and has slept through the night twice in eight months. She’s always active, always moving until she crashes, but only sleeps for so long before scooting again, still always happy. Even now when she’s lifted or put down, her little legs pump as if she’s a sprinter anxious to take off.
There may be more medical challenges, but she’s going to have an amazing life.
“I believe God has great plans for her life,” Kara said, “and she’s going to do great things.”