Philanthropy — Nine-year-old Cali Raders battle with two forms of encephalitis has brought out the best in the people of St. Paul; recovery continues

Since becoming afflicted with HSV encephalitis in May, Cali Rader hasn’t had too many good days.

Considering that she was showing improvement a month later before developing Anti NMDA-receptor encephalitis — an auto-immune disorder that has taken away her ability to walk, talk and feed herself — that’s been especially true this fall.

But returning home for just the second time Saturday, her classmates and teachers from St. Paul Elementary got to see her for the first time since she went to the hospital, helping to make it one of the best days she’s had in a long time.

“It was a most excellent day that day,” Cali’s mom, Traci Rader, said. “She was quite alert and responsive to the stimulus around her and I think had a really good time.”by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Battling    sickness - Nine-year-old Cali Rader has been battling two forms of encephalitis - inflammation of the brain caused by an infection or allergic reaction - since May. Her cousin, St. Paul High School senior Chris Petrjanos, held a volleyball tournament fundraiser for her on Saturday, raising more than $2,600.

Saturday was also the latest example of how the St. Paul community has rallied around the girl and her family, as St. Paul High School senior Chris Petrjanos held a benefit volleyball tournament as the pretext for his cousin’s visit, raising $2,691 in the process.

“Christopher did a fantastic job,” Traci Rader said. “I was so impressed with the whole production. It was perfect.”

Contracting the Herpes Simplex Virus is not uncommon, as most people will just develop a cold sore somewhere on their body, but for just one in every 500,000 does it cross the blood-brain barrier and attack the brain.

Cali had been at a rehabilitation facility for just six days following her initial treatment when her condition worsened and doctors put her in a state of sedation that she has never fully woken up from. She was moved to the pediatric ICU at Legacy Randall Children’s Hospital in Portland and just recently diagnosed with Anti NMDA-receptor encephalitis.

The good news is that with her current infusion treatment with the cancer drug rituximab, Cali’s doctors believe she can recover, but that it could take as long as two years.

A neo-natal ICU nurse, Traci Rader said she fluctuates between a matter-of-fact work mode in which she understands the medical realities of the situation and that of an emotional and inpatient mom who just wants to bring her child home healthy once again.

The disorder is especially devastating, having almost completely obscured Cali’s vibrant personality.

“She was quite the social butterfly,” Rader said. “She was into everybody’s business. She knew more about what was going on with anybody else probably than herself. She was very artistic.”

Traci Rader said she is thankful for all the support of the community, which has been eager for updates on her condition. She was especially touched when contacted by the St. Paul Catholic Church, which inquired about the situation so as to pray appropriately for Cali’s recovery.

“That surprised me because I’m not a member of that denomination or church body,” Traci Rader said. “That really meant a lot to me. It was above and beyond support and everyone going out of their way for good wishes and being hopeful that she’ll recover fully.”

The majority of Petrjanos’ fundraising efforts came in the form of an anonymous $2,500 donation. Those who would also like to help offset the family’s medical expenses can make a donation to the Cali Rader Medical Fund (account # 370931012543) at Key Bank.

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