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The Greatest Blessing

Run to raise funds for retina research

Ellen Cook

Leader Editor

One wall at the Branch home in Bothwell is covered with family pictures. Above the array of photos is a sign that says “Family” followed by a smaller one adding “Life’s Greatest Blessing.”

For Willy and Meagan Branch, their greatest blessing is a little girl pictured prominently is that photo arrangement, a little girl who has never really seen any of those snapshots.

Reese Branch, just three years old, is legally blind, born with a rare genetic disease called Lebers congenital amaurosis that attacks one in 80,000 infants and children.  She was diagnosed at the age of six months when her eyes began to “bounce around,” her mother said, due to poor development of the retina.

Today, Reese is a vivacious, strong-willed blonde, sporting thick-lens glasses and toting a tiny white cane that works equally well for walking in unfamiliar territory or accessorizing a gymnastics routine.

Meagan said Reese has used a cane since she could walk and worn those glasses from the time she was diagnosed.   But the disease is claiming more and more of her limited vision.  Bright sunlight makes it hard for her to even distinguish shapes now.  Eventually her eyesight will be completely gone.

“There is no cure,” Meagan said, matter-of-factly.  “Medical research is being done but there are 17 different genes involved and it takes about a million dollars to research just one gene.”

For more on this story pick up a copy of this week’s Leader.

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