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.