By Jay Weaver

Miami Herald

How to help

Wish Book is trying to help hundreds of families in need. To donate, pay securely at MiamiHerald.com/wishbook. To give via your mobile phone, text WISH to 41444. For information, call 305-376-2906 or email wishbook@MiamiHerald.com.

MIAMI — Monica Finch once led a full life.

She worked as a staff administrator at the University of Miami’s department of child and adolescent psychiatry while raising her daughter in Miami Gardens, Florida.

But a decade ago, Finch started experiencing health problems that mystified her, forcing her to leave the job she loved. She found out what was troubling her only after she went to a local hospital to have a boil lanced.

“They said my kidney failed,” recalled the 44-year-old Finch. “I was in denial. Within one week, they told me I had to go on dialysis. I was having such a hard time.”

The blow from renal failure felt like the end to a normal life, Finch said, and she soon realized she would have to undergo the blood-cleansing treatment three times a week if she wanted to live.

Finch said her mother, Cynthia, her daughter, Janielle, and her niece, Jonelle, helped her survive — especially after she started using a wheelchair five years ago. Suffering from seizures, she was diagnosed with cerebellar degeneration, a brain disorder that caused her to lose coordination and balance.

“I don’t have any motor skills,” Finch said. “I can hold someone’s hand and walk, but I can’t do it on my own.”

Her mother held the family together, taking care of the driving, cooking and other errands. Despite her own limitations, Finch said she remained upbeat because that has always been her nature.

Finch’s spirit, however, sank when her mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in late 2015. Finch, with the help of her daughter and niece, looked after Cynthia in their rented home. The ordeal made them all closer, she said.

“We worked really well together,” Finch said. “Nobody ever got tired of it. We all took care of her.”

Cynthia died at 62 in August, leaving Finch and the rest of her family rudderless without the matriarch. “Not a minute goes by where I don’t think about my mama,” she said.

Compounding the family’s loss was a summer of rainstorms that leaked through the roof of their rented three-bedroom, one-bathroom home.

Finch, who was nominated for the Miami Herald’s Wish Book by the National Kidney Foundation of Florida, said she would like to find a new apartment for her family in the same Miami Gardens neighborhood. She also would like some new furniture to go with it.

Finch, who lives off a monthly disability payment from Social Security, said she would ultimately like to find some part-time work to fit around her demanding dialysis treatments.

“I try to be upbeat,” she said. “I feel blessed that I can be happy despite my circumstances.”

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