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Outpouring of help eases pain for Johnsburg family
By Amy R. Mack | Daily Herald Columnist

Laurie Radtke of Johnsburg fills out paperwork as her 7-year-old daughter Taylor, who has been diagnosed with a rare tumor in her skull talks with her grandmother, Mary Fox.

 

Mark Black | Staff Photographer

The tumor has already affected vision in one of Taylor's eyes and soon will affect the other -- if surgery isn't done soon.

 

Mark Black | Staff Photographer

Dr. Arthur DiPatri of Children's Memorial Hospital looks over some older scans of Taylor Radtke, 7 of Johnsburg, who has been diagnosed with a rare tumor in her head.

 

Mark Black | Staff Photographer

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Published: 10/10/2007 5:36 PM | Updated: 10/11/2007 10:02 AM

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Rarely would Taylor Radtke's mom call herself speechless, but the outpouring of prayers, medical assistance and support for her little girl left Laurie Radtke struggling today.

"I'm at a loss for words. All these people ..." Radtke said as she raced her 7-year-old daughter to another medical test in light of still more grim news.

She and her husband, Lake Zurich Fire Capt. Jeff Radtke, had just learned Taylor's tumor -- a clivus meningioma considered inoperable because of its location between the brainstem and spine -- is now pressing on Taylor's optic nerve. It has already harmed much of her vision in her left eye and, without rapid intervention, will permanently damage her right.

Earlier Coverage
Taylor Radtke
Seven-year-old Taylor Radtke, diagnosed with a rare tumor that threatens her vision and mobility, needs life-saving surgery that few doctors are willing to perform.
Stories
How you can help
DONATE - Donations for Taylor Radtke are being accepted at First Midwest Bank's Johnsburg branch, 3805 N. Johnsburg Road, and McHenry branch, 1308 N. Route 31. Funds raised will be put toward research, travel expenses and medical costs.
SEND A CARD - If you'd like to write the Radtkes a card, please send them courtesy of Amy Mack, Daily Herald, 385 Airport Road, Suite A, Elgin, IL 60123.

The news turned the Johnsburg's couple's already difficult quest to find a surgeon willing to chance the risks and remove the tumor within weeks -- when it's believed it will do permanent damage to Taylor's mobility -- into a mission of days. And atop that already difficult challenge, they likely will also need to find someone willing to fly them to another location for that surgery.

Already feeling they needed a miracle, they now know they need a few.

Helping greatly amid the distress was the avalanche of e-mails and phone calls of hope, prayer and medical suggestions after news of the family's challenge was published in today's Daily Herald.

"All the prayers and thoughts and insights -- people we don't even know -- it's been so reassuring," Laurie said. "People from as far south as Wheaton and St. Charles, even radio stations. It's so reassuring even though we're still in a panic state."

The ophthalmologist's discovery heightened the desperate quest to find someone willing to operate on the tricky, rapidly-growing tumor.

Instead of spreading the word with media interviews and researching options as they'd expected today, the Radtkes raced into Chicago for yet another test that was moved up because of the latest dire discovery. Taylor will have yet another invasive procedure today.

"We're trying to save her life," said Mary Fox of Palatine, Taylor's grandmother. "She's our whole world."

Taylor has turned a bit clingy, but, otherwise, is doing OK, they said with her family sheltering her a bit from the latest difficult news.

The little girl, who loves animals and cheerleading, captured the hearts of Daily Herald readers who responded to the family's plea for help with countless suggestions for doctors to contact. People who have faced medical crises of their own, parents of sick children, medical professionals and people simply wanting to help wrote to offer assistance.

"I know just what they are going through as I have just gone through it myself," wrote a Naperville woman. "I also had a meningioma that was in a web of nerves at the base of my brain, pressing on the brain tem. Every neurosurgeon in the Chicago area said it was inoperable. No one was willing to take a chance on me."

She found help through a team of doctors in Pittsburgh.

Others wrote of success here in the Chicago area with a number of different surgeons. Others suggested specialists in Phoenix, Los Angeles, Boston and Atlanta.

One area doctor offered to stay late or come in early to see if he could help. Many with ties to physicians called to clear the way for appointments with specialists.

The Radtkes are checking them all.

Friends and family have rallied around to help track down the leads or help arrange air transportation if the vital medical help is in another state.

So far, that has been a challenge, friend Lori Vetter said. Last-minute volunteer flights through groups like Angel Flight don't appear to be an option since those are volunteers requiring advance notice and extensive medical release documents.

Airline flights are, thus far, cost prohibitive, she added. But the search continues.

"This family is amazing and we just need to be able to help Taylor anyway we can," Vetter said.

The support group has been buoyed knowing groups like Make A Wish will make Taylor's special wish a priority. In addition to wanting to see the ESPN cheerleading championships, she would love to visit the San Diego Zoo and hold a baby monkey.

The cheerleading request was no surprise to family friend and Taylor's cheerleading coach, Laura Ward, who is the cheerleading coach for Taylor and the Johnsburg Jayhawks.

"She's a fireball," Ward said. "It looks like she has someone inside her tickling her.

"They're a wonderful family," she added." "We're just trying to pull together as a community and friends and give her a chance."

So do complete strangers.

"I also was in a situation if I did not have surgery I would not have lived," one reader wrote, giving the names of the doctors who helped her and echoing a sentiment expressed by many:

"I hope that this can be of some help," she added. "Taylor, Mom and Dad .. you will all be in my prayers."

If you'd like to pass along any advice or can offer help, e-mail Amy Mack at amack@dailyherald.com