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Lemont Community 'Rallies for Roderik'

Five-year-old Roderik James—affectionally known as "RJ"—will undergo brain surgery soon. The community wants to help.

Roxann Smith used to tell her 5-year-old son Roderik that the injections he was receiving were "Batman" shots. 

She let him believe that they would give him large muscles and strength to lift a car, or swoop through the sky to save someone. While maybe a stretch, it wasn't that far from the truth. The injections were human growth hormones, to combat a rare cyst sprawled across his brain in a place that prevents his physical growth. 

Doctors found the golf ball-sized arachnoid cyst during a routine test after Roderik suffered a slight head injury while playing with a friend. He's undergone nearly two years of treatments for the cyst, which is causing hydrocephalus—a build-up of spinal fluid on the brain—and he's nearing the date where a surgeon can finally help alleviate the problem.

The Lemont community is as hopeful as his mother, and is rallying behind her efforts to help "RJ," with a fundraiser planned for Thursday, March 13 at Tap House Grill. 

A single mom, Smith is humbled by her friends' efforts.

"I have a very hard time asking for help," Smith said.


'So Close'

Insurance woes have impeded Smith from pushing ahead with RJ's surgery, during which doctors will drill holes at the top and bottom of the cyst. A shunt would then be inserted to help redistribute the spinal fluid back where it belongs. RJ's treatments are costly, at nearly $2,800 for a month's supply. The cyst is growing (now the size of two golf balls, combined), and is compressing upon the optic nerve. He has lost hearing in his left ear, and spends days at Lurie Children's Hospital, away from his 3-year-old sister Victoria.

But she can see a light at the end of the tunnel.

"We're so close to him getting beyond this, having him live a normal life," Smith said. 

Another Obstacle

There's another complication in solving Roderik's worries. Like his mother, Roderik has a disease called von Willebrands, a disorder in which the blood lacks a crucial clotting factor. 

"As a mom, what scares me is the bleeding," Smith said.

The disorder makes any surgery dangerous, she said, but especially one where excessive bleeding could impact the brain.

The chance of giving Roderik a more normal life is worth the risk, and she's putting her son in the capable hands of neurosurgeons, endocrinologist and hematologist at Lurie Children's.

The first surgery, which has yet to be scheduled, will let doctors determine the best course of action—removing the cyst or draining it.

'Outpouring of Support'

A fundraiser planned at Tap House Grill will feature raffles, donated gifts from local businesses, and silent auctions. Ten percent of all March 13 proceeds will go directly into Smith's "GoFundMe" account for Roderik's procedure.

Local business owners, like Amy Kelly of Front St. Cantina, have stepped up to promote the benefit. 

"She's been a godsend," Smith said. 

Anyone interested in donating to the cause or benefit should contact Kathy Henrikson, at 630-863-3411, or Amy Kelly, at 630-863-1314. 

Customers should print out the flier and bring it along the day of the benefit. The event starts at 5 p.m.

"He just wants to play," Smith said of RJ, "and be a boy, and run around in his Batman costume."


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