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Taylor finds doctor to do the surgery
Family gets the call from an Arizona doctor
By Amy R. Mack | Daily Herald Staff

Taylor Radtke


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Published: 10/13/2007 12:25 AM

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Toes and fingers crossed, Laurie Radtke had sat perched in her pajamas on the floor, watching the phone for the bulk of Friday.

She'd been up all night, checking and re-checking the status of the hefty packet containing her precious Taylor's medical reports, doctors notes and test results, including the critical brain angiogram done Thursday night.

The suitcases were packed, standing sentry at the laundry room door. A company jet generously donated by a local firm was standing by for a limited time.

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 just needed the doctor to call … with good news.

And he did. Granting a wish from a desperate mom and dad, Arizona neurosurgeon Dr. Robert Spetzler agreed Friday night to try to remove the brain tumor that threatens 7-year-old Taylor Radtke's life.

"I'm shaking," a sobbing -- and relieved -- Laurie said right after she got the call. "I can't stop shaking. I feel like I've been given a second life with her. She's been given a second chance at life. He is a superman."

The family will fly to Arizona this weekend and will meet with the neurosurgeon's team early next week. He first will gather that team, sort through all the medical records and devise a plan for the best possible approach to help Taylor.

"He told us it doesn't have to be done tonight or tomorrow, but he needs to see her early next week," Laurie said.

Using the corporate jet donated by a local firm wishing anonymity, the family will fly west today. Coincidentally, they'd just learned that Make A Wish had just arranged for Taylor's dream trip to the San Diego Zoo -- where she wants to hold a baby monkey -- so it's possible they can fit that visit in before Taylor has the surgery.

The combination of joyful news caps what's been an anxious few weeks for the Johnsburg couple since learning their daughter faced the life-threatening tumor located in an extremely rare location for a child. Initially they believed they had weeks to find help, prompting a desperate plea through the media for doctors who would consider the tricky procedure.

Then they learned there might only be days because the rapidly growing clivus meningioma at the base of Taylor's brainstem was now pushing on her optic nerve, threatening her vision.

Their plea sparked a massive outpouring of support from across northern Illinois and spread across the country. The combination of efforts and calls led to hope, and hours of tense waiting.

"I'm freaking out," Laurie said late Friday as afternoon turned into evening. "I just talked to the doctor at Children's and he has the result of the scans and he consulted all his other colleagues and they all feel it can be removed … especially if this doctor does it."

Although Taylor's test results had arrived early Friday, Spetzler was in another complicated surgery all day. His staff told Laurie he'd call her as soon as he'd seen the scans.

Sitting right across from her mom in their Johnsburg home as the tension escalated Friday was Taylor. "She's sitting here, crossing her toes, well … trying to cross her toes," Laurie said. "She's all excited, head-to-toe smiles and jumping up and down now like crazy."

Just like her mom who was almost giddy with hope.

"This is like a second chance," Laurie said. "Taylor said, 'Mommy, what's wrong?' I told her you know how people say they're on cloud 9? I told her her Mommy is on cloud 100. I have as much joy right now in my heart as the day she was born."

She had spent the wait printing out the dozens upon dozens of e-mails from residents across northern Illinois, calling doctors people have recommended, setting aside offers of financial and transportation help. She also was continuing to call other specialists, just in case.

Laurie said she and husband Jeff, a Lake Zurich fire captain, were simply staggered as they reread the e-mails and waded through countless more than continued to pour in Friday.

"Oh my goodness," Laurie said. "What has struck me is the amount of compassion and heartfelt words."

Among those reaching out was a Cary mom whose daughter was helped by the same physician the Radtkes hope can save their daughter. Like so many who have reached out to her family, Laurie said she has found great comfort and hope in those calls. "She knows how helpless, how hopeless we're feeling," Laurie said. "It was so reassuring to hear from her, to talk to her."

And now, soon, she hopes she can share a similar tale with others.