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Carey family reunited following rough 2013

Photo: The Carey family, Tim, Dylan, Chris and Gavin, at home together just days after being reunited on Dec. 26. Courtesy Photo

SHABBONA, Ill.—When 3-year-old Dylan Carey was finally reunited with his mother, Christine Bateman Carey, on Dec. 26, he wrapped himself around her legs and wouldn’t let go.

Neither he nor his 6-year-old brother, Gavin, had seen her in three months.

Dylan, who has been undergoing treatment for a stage four neuroblastoma, had spent a month in quarantine at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago after a bone marrow transplant. Chris, who suffered head trauma in a car accident on Oct. 12, had been hospitalized at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, undergoing physical, rehabilitative and speech therapies.

Their reunion was “just really awesome,” Dave Bateman, Chris’ father, said.

“Dylan sat down on the couch and glued himself to his mom’s leg. He was just stuck there,” Bateman said. “There were some tears, some adjustments, and then time to play a little bit. Chris tires easily, and that’s to be expected, but the reunion was incredible. She was so glad to be home with the boys, and the boys were glad to see mom. It is the answer to a whole lot of prayers, I can tell you that.”

It was a rare moment of joy for a family that’s been twice touched by tragedy: Dylan’s diagnosis in July with neuroblastoma, a tumor of the adrenal gland that had metastasized into his bones, and the car accident in October that landed Chris in a neuro intensive care unit.

Chris, a 1995 Kaneland graduate and an Elburn native, was already on unpaid family medical leave from her job, as she shuttled Dylan to doctors’ appointments, surgeries and chemotherapy. After the accident, her husband, Tim Carey, also went on unpaid family medical leave to care for his wife and sons, living at Ronald McDonald House to be with Dylan during his surgery and month-long quarantine.

Their medical bills are sky-high. Their incomes have disappeared. The situation prompted friends and community members to raise over $38,000 for the family at the “Superheroes for Dylan” fundraiser in Sugar Grove on Dec. 6.

It was an outpouring of support that the family is grateful for, Bateman said.

“The one thing I want to make sure comes through is the absolute and incredible gratitude that Chris and Tim have for all the support they’ve had,” Bateman said. “The fundraiser, the girls who put on that fundraiser … there were people supporting them before the accident, but after, there was hardly a day that one of her friends didn’t come spend with her in the hospital. It’s been an incredible support from friends and community, and I know they want to express their gratitude for that, and I certainly do.”

Though Chris and Dylan are now home, both are still undergoing intensive treatment.

Dylan is starting targeted radiation therapy and travels to Central DuPage Hospital for radiation treatments five days a week.

“We’re a long ways from being done,” Bateman said. “There’s still a lot of pieces that need to get put together, but the doctors are optimistic about Dylan. I think I used the word earlier, ‘cautiously optimistic,’ and I still am, but I’m more optimistic than cautious at this point in time.”

Chris is traveling to Cadence Health in Aurora for additional rehabilitative therapies twice a week. She’s made dramatic progress since the accident, but she still has further to go, her father said.

“All the tubes are out,” Bateman said. “She can eat and converse, but her memory is not so great. She gets lost once in awhile, where she’ll come out of the woods, but for the most part she’s very conversant. She does not remember any part of the accident, and that’s a good thing. I told Chris, ‘The mind has the amazing ability to block some things, and it’s OK, your mind’s protecting
you from that.’ Everyday she remembers more people. It’s putting things in perspective.”

Chris was highly motivated to recover, Bateman said, because she wanted to go home and start caring for Dylan and Gavin again.

“For Chris, it was, ‘What do I need to do to go home?’ She really worked very hard at it, and she realizes there’s still a way to go, but she’s planning on having a full recovery,” Bateman said. “But we also know that it’s not going to be overnight. It could be more than a year before she’s back to normal, but you achieve a little more normalcy every day.”

Tim’s step-sister, Rachel Saltz, has come to stay with the family for the month, helping take Dylan and Chris to treatments and take care of Gavin, who is back in school. The family is trying to adjust to the dramatic changes in their lives, Bateman said.

“It’s just an ongoing process of getting reacquainted,” he said. “You’ve got a family that has been totally devastated over the last six months, and it’s a matter of adjusting to the new reality. It’s never going to be quite like it was. It’s going to be close, but never quite the same. I give (Tim) an immense amount of credit, simply to be able to weather that storm. As he said, ‘You do what you have to do.’ And that was Chris’ attitude before she was hurt: ‘I can’t change what it is, but I can work on my attitude, and my attitude is that we’re going to get through this.’”

The family is still in need of financial help, he said, and additional fundraisers are being planned. Though the Carey family has health insurance, there are co-pay fees for every doctor visit and every medication, as well as co-insurance, the percentage of hospitalization costs and treatment that the family has to pay. Chris’ three-month stay in the hospital was particularly costly, Bateman said, and the bills for her treatment and Dylan’s treatments are just starting to arrive.

Yet despite the challenges, Bateman said he felt hopeful.

“I feel just overwhelming gratitude,” he said. “It’s the answer to prayers that we are so grateful for. And I’m going to be a little selfish and say, we need continued prayers because we’re certainly not done yet. We’re not out of the woods, but we’ve seen some clearings.”

Monetary donations can be made to the “Superheroes for Dylan” account at any Castle Bank, including the Sugar Grove branch at 36 E. Galena Blvd.

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Becoming Dylan’s ‘superhero’

Photo: Tim and Christine (Bateman) Carey with sons Dylan, 3, and Gavin, 6. The family lives in Shabbona, Ill. Photo by Samantha Garver

SUGAR GROVE—Three-year-old Dylan Carey pretends he’s a superhero during his chemotherapy treatments for the stage four neuroblastoma he was diagnosed with in July—and the family hopes that local residents will come out to help save the day for “Super D” at his fundraiser on Friday, Dec. 6.

The event, “Superheroes for Dylan,” will be a night of fun and fundraising. It will be held at Open Range Southwest Grill, located at 1 Golfview Lane in Sugar Grove, and feature a pig roast, cash bar, silent auction, raffle and 50/50 raffle. Doors will open at 5 p.m., and dinner will start at 6 p.m., with hamburgers and hot dogs also available.

Tickets are $20 and include dinner and entertainment. There will be a caricature artist and a holiday photo booth, where guests can have holiday pictures taken by a professional photographer, and “Super D” T-shirts will be for sale.

Back Country Roads, a local country band, will perform from 8:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. For those coming just to see the band, a $10 cover charge will begin at 8 p.m.

Though the event will be raising funds for his treatment, Dylan won’t be there—he had a bone marrow stem cell transplant on Tuesday, which he needed because the cancer has metastasized from his adrenal gland into his bone marrow. He’ll spend the next 30 days in quarantine at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, which means he’ll be in the hospital through Christmas, and then begin radiation treatments.

His mother, Christine Bateman Carey, a 1995 Kaneland graduate and an Elburn native, also won’t be in attendance at the fundraiser—she was in a devastating car accident on Oct. 12 that landed her in the neuro intensive care unit at OSF St. Anthony Medical Center in Rockford, Ill. She’s now undergoing physical, rehabilitative and speech therapies at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. Her room at the RIC is just 10 doors down from Becky Nelson’s, the Maple Park native who suffered a traumatic brain injury following a hit-and-run in the Cayman Islands last July.

It’s been a shattering series of events for the Carey family, who live in Shabbona, Ill., and also have a 6-year-old son, Gavin.

“The benefit originally was just for Dylan, but now it’s obviously a family benefit,” said Tracy Rhoades Frieders, who is one of the event’s organizers. “Aside from the enormous things they already had going on, having Chris in the hospital … it’s a lot.”

When Dylan was first diagnosed in July, Chris went on unpaid family medical leave from her job at a CPA office in Geneva in order to care for him.

Dylan underwent surgery to remove the tumor on his adrenal gland and then chemotherapy. Chris took him twice a week to Central DuPage Hospital, which is affiliated with Lurie Children’s Hospital, in Winfield, Ill., for his treatments.

Dylan—a happy little boy who loves superheroes and is affectionately called “Dilly”—is still remarkably active, despite the surgeries and chemotherapy, said Dave Bateman, his grandfather and a former Elburn resident.

“He’s been coping amazingly well; it hasn’t slowed him down much at all,” said Bateman, who now lives in Oregon, Ill. “He’s been a little sick (from the chemotherapy). He was tired for two or three days, and then after that, he’s back to being a typical 3 year old. He’s really doing very well. That’s part of why they call him a superhero, because he’s doing so well with the treatments.”

The car accident on Oct. 12 exacerbated the family’s already difficult situation.

As Tim Carey, Dylan’s father, was driving south on Route 23 in Waterman, Ill., with his wife and two sons in the car, another vehicle failed to stop at a stop sign and collided with the Carey’s vehicle. Both cars overturned into a field. Tim and the boys were treated for minor injuries, but Chris and the other driver were seriously injured.

Tim, who works for the city of West Chicago and is also a volunteer firefighter in Shabbona, also had to go on unpaid family medical leave in order to care for Chris, Dylan and Gavin.

“One incident is tough, but to put both of those together is just overwhelming,” Bateman said. “And I know that the support of the community has just meant the world to Chris and Tim, and after the accident, it’s just meant the world to Tim. It’s been incredible, and it needs to continue, because it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. It’s not going to be over by Christmas.”

Tim and Gavin will be spending Christmas at the Ronald McDonald House near Lurie Children’s Hospital, Bateman said, to be near Dylan. Doctors are hoping that Dylan might be well enough on Christmas to spend it in a more “home-like” setting at the Ronald McDonald House with his family, but they want him to stay close to the hospital. Chris’ parents will be spending Christmas at the hospital with her.

“It’s not what you planned on, but we thank God that both Chris and Dylan are still here,” Bateman said. “In the big picture, it’s one of the things we’ve got that we are grateful for.”

Nearly a dozen friends have stepped forward to support the Careys and plan the fundraiser, Frieders said.

Older brother Gavin cut his hair short to support his younger brother, Dylan (left).   Photo by Samantha Garver
Older brother Gavin cut his hair short to support his younger brother, Dylan (left). Photo by Samantha Garver

“(Chris and Tim) would do anything for anybody,” Frieders said. “They’re always willing to help anybody in any way they can. They are people you can count on. They’re just such wonderful people, and anybody who’s met them knows that.”

The organizers are hoping that 300 people will come out on Friday night to help alleviate the family’s financial burden. Frieders said she hopes the silent auction and raffles will help raise money to help pay the Carey’s mounting medical bills.

More than 50 items will be auctioned off, including two pairs of Blackhawks tickets, two pairs of Cubs tickets, a 2014 season pass for Hughes Creek Golf Course in Elburn, a three-night stay at Galena’s Eagle Ridge Resort, $1,000 worth of automotive wet sanding and painting at County Line Customs in Maple Park, an Amazon Kindle, a round of golf for four people at Bliss Creek, a massage package from Massage Envy, a gift certificate to Mario Tricoci, a professional photography package, grass-fed beef from Herrmann Cattle Co., and several sports jerseys, gift baskets, gift certificates, home and holiday items.

Raffle items include a 42-inch flat-screen TV, an iPad Air, gift certificates, Thirty-One purses, tire balancing, and “a ton of other items,” Frieders said.

Frieders said she hopes to raise as much as $30,000 for the Carey family, who she said have been “overwhelmed” by both Dylan’s and Chris’ illnesses.

Though the Careys have health insurance, there are co-pay fees for every doctor visit and every medication. There’s co-insurance, the percentage of hospitalization costs and treatment that the family has to pay. There are travel costs from Shabbona to two different hospitals in Chicago; parking; meals out; and, of course, there’s the lost income of both Chris and Tim.

“There are just a lot of things that aren’t covered,” Bateman said. “There’s the travel, the co-pays, the incidentals, Tim taking time off of work. When you’re on family leave, you’re not paid. And he ran out of paid days a long time ago. All of those things add up, and the bills keep coming. We don’t have any idea how much of it isn’t going to be covered by insurance. So I think there’s going to be a huge need for some financial support to help the kids cross the hurdles.”

Jaime Herrmann, one of the organizers, said that she hoped the holidays would inspire people to be generous to the family.

“These are genuinely nice, kindhearted people who have an unfortunate accident with their son, and a tragic accident, and they can use the open-hearted support of people,” Herrmann said. “This time of year, people tend to be in a giving mood. I can’t think of a more deserving family.”

More information about the Carey family and the benefit can be found at mysuperdylan.com. Monetary donations can also be made to the “Superheroes for Dylan” account at any Castle Bank, including the Sugar Grove branch at 36 E. Galena Blvd.