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Ailing girl's parents buoyed by support
Parents of gravely ill daughter deluged with offers of help
By Amy R. Mack | Daily Herald Staff

Laurie Radtke and her 7-year-old daughter, Taylor, share a lighter moment while waiting to see a doctor earlier this week. The tumor in Taylor's head is rapidly threatening her eyesight and her life.


Mark Black | Staff Photographer

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Published: 10/12/2007 12:13 AM

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Laurie Radtke didn't pause when her daughter, Taylor, asked if she could be buried in her cheerleading outfit.

"I said, 'Sweetie, whatever you want,' " Laurie said through tears Thursday as she readied to take her 7-year-old for yet another crucial medical test. Thursday night's angiogram of Taylor's brain would tell specialists if there is still a chance to remove a clivus meningioma tumor other doctors have considered inoperable.

Taylor's question pierced the bubble her mom and dad have tried to keep around their daughter. They've been hoping she doesn't completely understand just how critical the situation has become. Without rapid intervention, the little girl will lose her sight, her mobility and, likely, her life.

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.
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.

"She knows what's in her head, but she doesn't really know the reality of the finality of it," Laurie said. "It's a good thing they don't have the ability to wrap their brains around the reality. It's hard not to be emotional in front of her. My stomach's in a knot, but I have to keep a smile on my face."

Making these difficult days easier Laurie and her husband, Jeff, has been the deluge of offers of help from across the region and the country since the Radtkes' plight was published in the Daily Herald.

"I'm just blown away by this," Laurie said of the countless calls and e-mails. "Jeff and I sat last night and went through all of them and it was amazing.

"Some made you cry, some made us smile. To know how many people have tried to help …"

In addition to many medical contacts, people have offered frequent flier miles, cash, help with finding a private plane, even the possibility of a corporate jet to get her to wherever a willing surgeon is.

Bringing a special smile was an offer from the producers of ESPN's cheerleading shows from Disney World to set up a visit to a live filming of the cheerleading finals and a stay at a Disney hotel.

"I have goose bumps," Laurie said at the news. "Taylor will be so thrilled."

The support has helped tremendously as the Johnsburg family fights to find help for Taylor.

"It's scary," Laurie said as the young parents readied for another round of waiting on what's been a roller coaster week of bad and good news.

"Sometimes you get a little bit of a smile on your face, then you get crushed again," Laurie said

She and Jeff, a Lake Zurich fire captain, have turned a home office into a command center dubbed a "war room" by her mom and a friend.

"It is a war room," Laurie said. "That's exactly what I'm doing: going to war to fight for my daughter's life."

Anatomy and medical books mixed with dozens of e-mails suggesting medical options and doctors fill the room. Laurie and Jeff have sorted through the suggestions, tracked down doctors and churned through messages of hope and reassurance.

Even as they awaited Thursday's test results they compiled more packages of medical records to send to surgeons who they think could help. Several specialists have indicated they're willing to try to help and are awaiting the test results to make a final call.

"It's scary, really scary," Laurie said as they waited once again.