Blakleigh Grace Lipe says she is officially a normal kid again, but she is really a trailblazer. The 4-year-old with curly blonde hair and a big smile is one of the first pediatric patients in the country to receive a new, life-saving treatment for liver cancer.
Blakleigh attends preschool, rides her bicycle in the driveway and plays with her sister Madalyn and their dogs in the back yard, but that wasn’t the case a year ago.
When mom Kasi Camden took Blakleigh to the pediatrician for her preschool physical on Sept. 6, 2017, the doctor felt something in her abdomen and sent her to have an ultrasound.
By 2 p.m. that day, Camden had a call from St. Louis, and soon they were headed to Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital, where Blakleigh was diagnosed with hepatoblastoma, a malignant tumor in the liver.
The tumor was inoperable, so Blakleigh began chemotherapy. Camden said she went through multiple rounds of chemo.
“Finally, with 10-day treatment of chemo, her AFP (alpha-fetoprotein) dropped down enough they thought her cancer was responding,” Camden said. “A CT scan revealed the chemo did nothing for her cancer.”
Camden said they tried another round of chemo.
After two months of chemotherapy, Camden feared Blakleigh was running out of options. So, the family sought a second opinion at Nemours Children’s Health System in Wilmington, Delaware.
Camden was in Hobby Lobby in Carbondale with her boyfriend, Ryan Moss, when she received a call from Dr. Howard Katzenstein, a nationally renowned specialist in pediatric liver cancers.
Katzenstein, transplant surgeon Dr. Stephen Dunn and interventional radiologist Dr. Allison Aguado at Nemours are working on a new procedure for children called the TARE-Y90. The Y90, which has been used in adults for 20 years, allows much higher doses of radiation to be delivered directly to the tumor by using an image-guided catheter to carry radioactive microbeads through a tiny incision in the groin.
A new study published Nov. 8 in the journal Pediatric Blood and Cancer finds that the procedure is a feasible treatment option for children with liver cancer that is resistant to chemotherapy and cannot be surgically removed.
After Facetime visits with the doctors in Delaware, Camden found out they would need to make several trips to meet the doctors face-to-face and to find out if Blakleigh was a candidate for the procedure.
“We needed to get to Delaware as soon as possible. I thought there was no way,” Camden said.
The family had considerable medical bills, and the cost of travel seemed to be too great.
That’s when the residents of Murphysboro and surrounding towns stepped up to help. Friends planned a series of fundraisers that raised more than $22,000 to help with medical expenses and travel.
"It's amazing how many people came forward to help," Camden said.
The family traveled to Delaware on Dec. 6 to meet with doctors. They made a second trip two weeks later for a pretrial of the radio-embolization, which required Blakleigh to be under anesthesia for seven hours. They stayed three days, then returned home.
“We had to wait a week or two to see if she was a candidate for procedure. We finally got that call that said she was a candidate,” Camden said. “We were really excited because we knew that was our only hope for Blakleigh.”
The procedure was successful. Blakleigh’s tumor shrunk to about half its original size.
On Jan. 29, 2018, Blakleigh went back into surgery at Nemours to have the tumor removed.
“They removed the whole right lobe of her liver and her gall bladder. She went in at 6 a.m., and we didn’t see her until 9 p.m.,” Camden said.
Camden was told the procedure would make Blakleigh sick, and it did.
“They started her on some pretty harsh chemo. She got really sick and wouldn’t eat or drink,” Camden said.
On Feb. 5, about a week later, she celebrated her fourth birthday at a party at Nemours. About two weeks after surgery, Blakleigh went home.
Blakleigh had to go to Cardinal Glennon for chemo every other week for about six weeks.
Once chemo and hospital visits were over, the 4-year-old had a goal. She was determined to ride her bicycle.
How is Blakleigh today?
“She is actually cancer-free for good — my faith is strong for that,” Camden said.
For the doctors at Nemours, Camden has one thing to say:
"We appreciate you guys saving Blakleigh's life."
WASHINGTON — WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will not willingly travel to the United States to face charges filed under seal against him, one of his lawyers said Friday, foreshadowing a possible fight over extradition for a central figure in the U.S. special counsel's Russia-Trump investigation.
Assange, who has taken cover in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he has been granted asylum, has speculated publicly for years that the Justice Department had brought secret criminal charges against him for revealing highly sensitive government information on his website.
That hypothesis appeared closer to reality after prosecutors, in an errant court filing in an unrelated case, inadvertently revealed the existence of sealed charges. The filing, discovered Thursday night, said the charges and arrest warrant "would need to remain sealed until Assange is arrested in connection with the charges in the criminal complaint and can therefore no longer evade or avoid arrest and extradition in this matter."
A person familiar with the matter, speaking on condition of anonymity because the case had not been made public, confirmed that charges had been filed under seal. The exact charges Assange faces and when they might be unsealed remained uncertain Friday.
Any charges against him could help illuminate whether Russia coordinated with the Trump campaign to sway the 2016 presidential election. They also would suggest that, after years of internal Justice Department wrangling, prosecutors have decided to take a more aggressive tack against WikiLeaks.
A criminal case also holds the potential to expose the practices of a radical transparency activist who has been under U.S. government scrutiny for years and at the center of some of the most explosive disclosures of stolen information in the last decade.
Those include thousands of diplomatic cables from Army Pvt. Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning, secret CIA hacking tools, and most recently and notoriously, Democratic emails that were published in the weeks before the 2016 presidential election and that U.S. intelligence officials say had been hacked by Russia.
Special counsel Robert Mueller, who has already charged 12 Russian military intelligence officers with hacking, has been investigating whether associates of President Donald Trump had advance knowledge of the stolen emails.
Meanwhile, Trump said Friday he had "very easily" answered written questions from special counsel Robert Mueller, though he speculated that the questions had been "tricked up" to try to catch him in a lie. He said he hadn't submitted his answers to investigators yet.
"You have to always be careful when you answer questions with people that probably have bad intentions," Trump told reporters in his latest swipe at the probe into 2016 election interference and possible ties between Moscow and the president's campaign.
The president did not say when he would turn over the answers to Mueller, but his attorney, Rudy Giuliani, indicated it could happen next week. The special counsel has signaled a willingness to accept written answers on matters related to collusion with Russia. But Giuliani has said repeatedly the president would not answer Mueller's questions on possible obstruction of justice.
During months of back-and-forth negotiations with the special counsel office, Trump's lawyers have repeatedly counseled the president against sitting down for an in-person interview.
Assange could be an important link for Mueller as he looks to establish exactly how WikiLeaks came to receive the emails, and why its dump of stolen communications from Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta — beginning just after a damaging video of Trump from a decade earlier publicly surfaced — appeared timed to boost the Trump campaign.
Assange, 47, has resided in the Ecuadorian Embassy under a grant of asylum for more than six years to avoid being extradited to Sweden, where he was accused of sex crimes, or to the United States, whose government he has repeatedly humbled with mass disclosures of classified information.
The Australian was once a welcome guest at the embassy, which takes up part of the ground floor of a stucco-fronted apartment in London's posh Knightsbridge neighborhood. But his relationship with his hosts has soured over the years amid reports of espionage, erratic behavior and diplomatic unease.
The charges came to light in an unrelated court filing from a federal prosecutor in Virginia, who was attempting to keep sealed a separate case involving a man accused of coercing a minor for sex.
The three-page filing contained two references to Assange, including one sentence that said "due to the sophistication of the defendant and the publicity surrounding the case, no other procedure is likely to keep confidential the fact that Assange has been charged."
It was not immediately clear why Assange's name was included in the document. Joshua Stueve, a spokesman for the Justice Department's Eastern District of Virginia said, "The court filing was made in error. That was not the intended name for this filing."
CARBONDALE — “It’s hard to understate how famous Erv Coppi was in Southern Illinois in the 1960’s through 80’s,” said Joey Helleny, a longtime friend and fan of the legendary local radio and TV broadcaster. “He was well known to everyone.”
Coppi, who passed away on Wednesday, at 92, was “a radio star, a tv star and a rock star,” said his friend, Cheryl R. Trench, of Marion, and a living piece of Southern Illinois’s history.
He was the last surviving World War II veteran in Royalton, the town where he was born and raised, according to his daughter, Carla Coppi. He was an important figure in the local Italian community, the son of immigrants who chose the region for its coal mining industry.
He was also one of the last living voices from the golden age of radio and the birth of television, in the 1940’s and 50’s, a time when Southern Illinoisans got their entertainment from independently owned mom and pop stations.
“There were a lot more local on-air personalities who had followings, back then, and he was one of the best-known,” Helleny said. “There wasn’t so much prepackaged programming. Today a lot of stations are owned by groups, and radio has kind of become homogenized because of that. ”
A 2011 investigation found just six companies, including Disney and Time Warner, controlled 90 percent of what Americans read, watch and listen to.
In Coppi’s day, Southern Illinois was rich in independent media, and Coppi built his name on local content.
Just out of college, he got a broadcasting job at WFRX radio in West Frankfort, where he covered the December 1951 Orient #2 mine explosion, which killed 119 local miners.
From there, he moved to WGGH in Marion, where he had his biggest radio hit: the Egyptian Ballroom. Coppi played big-band music in a simulated ballroom, using sound effects to imitate a live audience, and announcing each artist as if they were really present.
“Much of his listening audience thought there was an actual Egyptian Ballroom,” said Helleny, who teaches in SIU Carbondale’s Department of Radio, Television and Digital Media. “People would drive to Marion looking for it, which of course, it didn’t exist.”
In 1969, Coppi joined WSIU, Southern Illinois’s local public television station, and became “the face of WSIU for something like two decades,” said Jak Tichenor, WSIU’s TV producer.
"Uncle Erv" became the host of WSIU’s "Movie Night" broadcasts, introducing classic films and the wildly popular horror movie nights, on the PBS channel.
“Students told me it was a cheap alternative to dates. They would stay home with a pizza and some beer and watch the old movies," he told Tichenor, in a 2011 interview.
“He would kind of give a short course on what the movie was about, and its stars, producers and directors,” Tichenor said. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of movies.”
Coppi also worked extensively with Virginia Marmaduke, another local media celebrity known as “The Duchess,” who made her name as one of Chicago’s first female crime reporters, covering "blood, guts and sex — not necessarily in that order," as she liked to say, for the Chicago Sun.
Coppi and Marmaduke’s projects were a bit less gory: They did color commentary at the Murphysboro Apple Festival parade, and led pledge drives, encouraging viewers to donate to WSIU.
“What other PBS station in the USA could say that their pledge breaks were appointment television?” wrote Facebook user Dave Juhl, in a post memorializing Coppi. “Growing up, when I heard [the WSIU Festival pledge drive] was coming to WSIU, I watched. Sure, the programs were great, but Erv and Virginia Marmaduke? Appointment television.”
“They could tell wonderful stories off the cuff, a lot of it ad-libbed,” Tichenor said. “They were naturals for being on live TV in the day, and they were a blast to work with.”
WSIU still hosts on-air pledge drives each year, but now favors shorter segments between scheduled programming, rather than the long telethons, where characters like Coppi and Marmaduke held court.
“You didn’t mind that they were interrupting your program,” Helleny said. “They were a joy to watch, even for students, who you wouldn’t think would necessarily relate to these people. They almost were a cult classic."
Even after years off the air, Coppi’s celebrity didn’t tarnish.
“It was not unusual at all for people in public to ask me: ‘How’s Irv doing? Is he still OK?’” Tichenor said.
“He charmed himself into people’s hearts,” Trench added. “There was a really affinity, this great loyalty to broadcasters back then, as if they were all our friends. Erv captured the imagination of so many listeners.”
Coppi will be honored with a video tribute on WSIU, Saturday evening, at 7:57 and 9:37 p.m., Tichenor said.
The American Red Cross is facing a severe blood shortage and urgently needs blood and platelet donors to give now to avoid delays in lifesaving medical care for patients. Volunteer blood drive hosts are also critically needed to prevent the shortage from worsening this winter.
During September and October, the American Red Cross collected over 21,000 fewer blood and platelet donations than hospitals needed. Fewer blood drives coupled with hurricanes Michael and Florence caused thousands of blood and platelet donations to go uncollected.
An additional 4,300 blood drives nationally and 80 additional drives in the St. Louis region, which includes Southern Illinois, are needed in December, January and February to help stop the shortage from continuing throughout winter.
“This time of year, as many give thanks for family, friends and good health, it’s important to remember that patients across the country cannot survive without your generosity,” Cliff Numark, senior vice president, Red Cross Biomedical Services, said in an email. “From traumas to ongoing cancer treatments, the need for blood doesn’t stop for the holidays.”
Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood. Approximately 36,000 units of red blood cells, 7,000 units of platelets and 10,000 units of plasma are needed daily in the U.S. No substitute for blood and platelets exists. They must come from a volunteer donor.
Generally, blood donors must be in good health and feeling well, be at least 18 years old (16 and 17 with parental consent) and weigh at least 110 pounds. To encourage donations around the Thanksgiving holiday, those who come to donate blood or platelets with the Red Cross Nov. 21-24 will receive a long-sleeved Red Cross T-shirt, while supplies last.
Blood donors of all blood types, especially type O, and platelet donors are urged to donate today. Eligible donors can find a blood or platelet donation opportunity and schedule an appointment by using the free Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).
Those interested in hosting or sponsoring a blood drive can at RedCrossBlood.org/HostADrive.
BENTON: 3-7 p.m. Dec. 4, St. Joseph Catholic Church, 506 W. Main St.; 12:30-5 pm. Dec. 12, Franklin Hospital.
CAMPBELL HILL: 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 21, Trico High School.
CARBONDALE: 10:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 17, University Mall, 1237 E. Main St.; 1-5 p.m. Dec. 5, SIU, 120 Lindegren Hall; 106 p.m. Dec. 5, Lentz Hall at SIU, 1275 Point; 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Dec. 7, SIU Student Center, 1255 Lincoln Drive; 11:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Dec. 9, First Christian Church, 306 W. Monroe St.; 2-6 p.m. Dec. 11, St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, 303 S. Poplar St.
CARTERVILLE: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Nov. 28, John A. Logan College, 700 Logan College Road; 2:30-6:30 p.m. Dec. 5, Carterville Community Center, 120 N. Greenbriar St.
CUTLER: 2-6 p.m. Dec. 10, Cutler Community Center.
HERRIN: 12:30-5 p.m. Monday, Nov. 19, First United Methodist Church, 300 S. 17th St.; 4-8 p.m. Nov. 28, Herrin Church of Christ, 3101 S. Park Ave.
MARION: 10:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 17, Marion Masonic Lodge, 307 W. Robinson Drive; 2-6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 19, First Presbyterian Church, 1200 S. Carbon St.; 1-5 p.m. Nov. 23, AMC Movie Theater, 3107 Civic Circle Boulevard; 4-7:30 p.m. Dec. 3, Jefferson Elementary School, 700 E. Boulevard; 2-6 p.m. Dec. 4, Aldersgate United Methodist Church, 2101 Fair St.; 3-7 p.m. Dec. 12, Cornerstone Community Church, 2705 Walton Way.
MURPHYSBORO: 1:30-5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 21, Murphysboro American Legion Post 127, 1700 Gartside St.; 3-7 p.m. Dec. 7, Pleasant Hill Christian Church, 6415 Ava Road.
PINCKNEYVILLE: 1-5 p.m., Pinckneyville Community Hospital, 5383 State Route 154.
TAMAROA: 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 18, Tamaroa Community Center, 534 W. Second North St.
ZEIGLER: 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Nov. 30, Zeigler-Royalton High School, 4989 State Highway 148 North.