Family raising funds for service dog for 3-year-old son with rare disorder

Posted at 11:13 AM, Jan 12, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-02 17:38:11-05

The family of a 3-year-old boy with a rare condition is raising funds to get a service dog for the toddler. 

Justin Fingers Jr., also known as Buddy, was born with a rare condition called Sturge-Weber Syndrome. He was diagnosed when he was only seven months old.

Dr. Ronald Coleman Jr. with Providence Pediatric Clinic said a port-wine birthmark can be an early indicator that a child has Sturge-Weber. He said the syndrome can cause severe developmental delays and seizures. 

"Sturge-Weber syndrome is a serious condition," Coleman said. "It's a malformation that's not only associated with the physical aspects of the skin but also glaucoma -- which can lead to blindness, seizures  -- which can affect cognitive development, even paresis -- which can affect mobility and walking," he added.

Recently, Buddy has been battling seizures. His mom, Jessica Fingers, said it's gotten so bad that her son has had times when he has 40 seizures in less than an hour.

"He will have seizures and he's coherent the whole time...with every seizure he has, it damages his brain, it shrinks his brain," Fingers said. "The longest one he had was for three hours. He was hooked to an EEG machine, [so] that's the only way we knew he had it."

With Buddy's seizures getting worse, the family decided he needs a seizure-detecting service dog, but those dogs are not free. The dog that the Fingers are trying to get for Buddy costs $12,000, so the family is raising funds to help purchase the dog for their son.

"Having this dog can make us aware, [it] can help us with medications and help us with a lot of things that can help prevent a lot of this," Fingers said. "If he has this dog, he'll [also] have that comfort and that's what a lot of people need when they're having seizures."

Buddy's dad, Justin Fingers, said he hopes to get the dog for Buddy because it will help him feel more like a kid that does not have Sturge-Weber.

"It means the world because it's going to allow him to be more independent," Fingers said. "That's going to be his best friend, companion, and give him a sense of independence," he added.

The family has raised less than half of the $12,000 they need to get a service dog for Buddy. They have held bake sales and created a GoFund Me account to help raise the funds.

"We're thankful for everything we get," Fingers said. "If somebody gives a dollar towards it -- that's, that's amazing to us."

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