Melody Raddatz feels more than a tinge of envy when she sees her 16-year-old son's friends hopping in cars with their brand new driver's licenses and cruising around the neighborhood.
Her child, Patrick Raddatz, suffers from a rare form of muscular dystrophy and has been confined to an electric wheelchair since he was three years old.
"All of his friends are driving now," Melody said. "It's sad for me, but that's not Pat's attitude. He said to me: 'What's the big deal about that? I've been driving since I was three.'"
Given what Pat has been through, it's going to take a lot more than a few teenage drivers to ruin his day. The Homer Glen native has miraculously survived two medical ordeals that even have had doctors scratching their heads, unable to explain how he pulled through.
Like most kids his age, Pat is interested in Xbox and girls. But he also lives for the Bears and has befriended several members of the organization, most notably chairman George H. McCaskey and coach Lovie Smith. An aspiring writer, Pat has interviewed several Bears players for a blog.
Pat maintains a positive attitude despite suffering from a litany of serious ailments. At the age of three, he was in the hospital after being diagnosed with diabetes when his liver ruptured. Doctors determined that he was suffering from a liver disease called hepatic peliosis. According to his mother, there were only seven known cases at the time and Pat was the only one to survive.
Over the next 13 years, Pat was diagnosed with a bleeding disorder and underwent a spinal fusion. But none of that prepared his family for what transpired last Halloween. Pat was in the hospital for what was thought to be a diabetic episode when his liver ruptured a second time.
"Thank God he was in the hospital," Melody said. "It happened so fast. They said it could never happen again. They didn't think it could happen again. But on Oct. 31 it happened again right before our eyes."
Pat survived again, but not before enduring three major surgeries and being placed in a drug-induced coma for 42 days. According to his mother, more than 50 doctors and residents jammed the operating room to observe the final procedure, with one explaining to her that it was "historic."
To say the least, the odds were against Pat surviving.
"One of the doctors told me, 'It wasn't us. There's a higher power here working with Pat because he is supposed to be dead. He is not supposed to be alive,'" Melody said. "And it happened to him twice."
McCaskey and Smith were among those who spent time at the hospital with the Raddatz family during the darkest days.
"When things were really bad, George and Lovie came to the hospital," Melody said. "The three men that Pat admires most—his dad [Cliff], George and Lovie—were there for him, and even though Pat wasn't awake, I think it helped him a lot."
When Pat woke up in early December, he wanted to know what had happened to him. His second question was about how the Bears season was going.
Talking about McCaskey in a blog for ChicagoBearsBuzz.com, Pat wrote: 'I met George a few years ago and since then I've considered him a friend of mine. He is a great guy — funny and caring. He doesn't act like he owns one of the wealthiest franchises in American sports. He acts like he's just some guy who works for the Bears.
"I think George appreciates and respects the history he is so much a part of. Everyone I have asked has said George is a wonderful man. I agree 100 percent."
The strength and courage that Pat displays in dealing with his medical issues inspires his mom. [
"I cannot falter," she said. "I can't break down. I can't be upset. None of that because look at how strong he is.
"We're thankful every day. In the scheme of things, if you're having a bad day at least you're having a bad day and Pat's still here. It could have been a lot worse. He was not supposed to be here."
Starting Sept. 1, funding that the Raddatz family receives to care for Pat will be drastically reduced. The cuts include money for medicine and wheelchair repairs. Those interested in donating to Pat can do so via the Patrick Raddatz Special Needs Trust at PNC Bank, 302 West Adams Street, Chicago IL 60606 (account number 48-0738-2327).