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Girl's story brings heartfelt response
Daily Herald Editorial Board
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Published: 10/16/2007 12:00 AM

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A Daily Herald story wasted no time cutting to the chase last week when introducing readers to 7-year-old Taylor Radtke.

"There is," the story reported, "no rest, no time, and no false hope on Laurie and Jeff Radtke's desperate quest to save their daughter Taylor's life.

"The family needs your help, your prayers, your connections."

The little girl who survived open-heart surgery shortly after birth had now developed a rare and life-threatening brain tumor. Her parents had reached the point of desperation in their efforts to find a surgeon willing to perform extraordinary risky and delicate surgery to remove a tumor pressing on Taylor's brain stem and optic nerve, threatening her vision, mobility and life itself.

To understate matters, Taylor's story struck a chord. The response, in fact, has been overwhelming -- every bit as heart-warming as Taylor's own story is heart-rending.

People from across northern Illinois contacted the Johnsburg family with ideas about specialists to contact in Boston, Phoenix, Los Angeles and Atlanta. Physicians, packing more clout with their peers than the average person does, offered to cut through phone menus and help set up appointments with specialists. The Make-A-Wish Foundation quickly arranged a visit for animal-loving Taylor to the San Diego Zoo. Strangers offered the Radtkes cash, frequent flier miles and airline buddy passes.

Just as touching? That dozens of people who have neither medical connections nor specific suggestions nonetheless contacted the Radtkes to convey their support, encouragement and prayers.

All of the publicity and networking succeeded. On Friday, an Arizona neurosurgeon, Dr. Robert Spetzler, told the Radtkes he will perform the surgery.

A local firm that requested anonymity gave the family the use of its corporate jet to fly west. The remarkable generosity of many has propelled events with remarkable speed. On Sunday, Taylor and her parents visited the zoo in San Diego. Today, Taylor will get a special behind-the-scenes zoo tour, and later this week the Radtkes will consult with Spetzler in preparation -- if all goes well -- for surgery.

"It's amazing," Laurie said, that "people who don't even know us are continuing to help us and care about what's going on for Taylor."

In one sense, it is amazing -- that a family whose waning hope was all but spent has been given the opening they need for a possible miracle. In another sense, though, it's hardly surprising. Crises bring out the best in many folks, and an innocent little girl's fight for her life touches the heart of every adult who has ever reared and loved a child.

Everyone who has gotten to know the Radtkes over the last week now joins in the same fervent hope for the successful surgery and recovery needed to put a happy ending on Taylor's story.