96.5 TDY Birthday Buddies!

Join us in wishing Roman Gaetke a very Happy 7th Birthday!

Future scientist or storm chaser Roman Gaetke is not your typical 7-year-old. He’s a straight A student reading above his grade level, and he has a sense of humor beyond his years, despite some pretty difficult, unique challenges.

When Roman was 2, his mother Bionca began noticing that he started bumping into things and walking into walls. “Every kid is clumsy, but there was something just not right,” she says. They headed to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with Neurofibromatosis Type 1, a genetic disorder that can cause skin abnormalities and tumors. At that time, they also discovered that Roman had developed a tumor on his optic nerve. They began routine MRIs to monitor the tumor, and it wasn’t until just three days before Thanksgiving of last year that they determined the tumor had started to grow.

“It really threw us for a loop,” says Bionca. Roman would require one day of chemotherapy every week for a year. Bionca is a single parent working a full time job, and is also in school. Travelling the hour and 15 minutes to and from the hospital every week simply wasn’t possible. “The doctors at St. Christopher’s have been great. They told me about the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House, which is amazing. It really helps to take a load off. Without the House, I wouldn’t have known where to turn.” Bionca and Roman stay at the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House every week when he comes to the hospital for treatment. “The comfort they provide is so valuable. The House is warm and welcoming. From the room itself, to the food, the entertainment…they really provide everything you can think of.”

Despite his medical challenges, Roman is resilient. “He doesn’t let any of this affect his spirit at all,” says Bionca. He is still finds great joy in the small things, which for Roman, include books about tornados and shark attacks, science class, and ball games. During a recent stay, the House gave Roman and Bionca tickets to a Phillies game. “He went nuts! It was his first Phillies game and he said it was the best night of his life. He loved the atmosphere and loved being able to feel like a normal kid for a night.”

Today, Roman’s mom is cautiously optimistic. “We’re planning on a year of chemo, and we will see where we are after that.” Even with a support system including world class doctors and the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House, Roman’s own determination remains a main source of stability for his mom. “He is the strongest person I know! He’s going through all of this, and he’s still the one comforting me and telling me it’s ok.”

The Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House, the first Ronald McDonald House in the world, helps keeps families, like Roman's, close.

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