Three members of the same Woodridge family are in a battle of their lives, including a 5-month-old boy who has spent nearly half his life in the hospital.
A deadly lung virus nearly killed baby George three times. But George's family is full of fighters. Mother Lucy Eliopulos and grandfather Jim Mandros are also fighting brain cancer.
The struggle has brought George's family closer, but despite the grim news, the family remains thankful.
Family, friends and strangers have pitched in and the generosity shows that "no one fights alone."
Since birth, smiling is what George does best.
"He's a cutie, he will break your heart," said nurse Dee Matz.
"I think of him as little Prince George. He's very sweet" said Dr. Vikram Prabhu.
Doctors and nurses at Loyola University Medical Center have grown close to George and his family.
"He had a life threatening lung infection. He had a life threatening bloodstream infection, to the point where at any point, he could have, he could have died," said Dr. Astha Sharma, pediatric intensive care at Loyola Medical Center.
As George fought to stay alive, his 37-year-old mother found out she had brain cancer.
In the days before George's delivery, Eliopulos experienced double vision.
"And that's what prompted us to get an MRI scan. And we discovered a small tumor that was pressing on one of the nerves that goes in to the eyes," said Dr. Prabhu, a neurosurgeon at Loyola.
The scan revealed more.
"Two brain tumors. And it came all of the sudden after he was born and it was very scary, it was very scary," said Mary Alice Dahm, Eliopulos' mother.
For Eliopulos' family, the news was hard to comprehend.
"It's just not OK. She's only 37. And he's going to have a heck of next couple years," said Tami Janicki, Eliopulos' sister.
"It was definitely like 'I can't take anymore.' We're all very strong and I know we can get through it but it was just it was a lot," said sister Mary McLain.
Brain surgery, six weeks of chemotherapy and radiation and just a few floors away, there was George. Eliopulos went to see him every day.
"It was very hard, it was emotionally draining and physically draining and he was at such a bad place, like he was up and down every day," Eliopulos said.
To get through the tough times, they had a family motto: "No one fights alone."
"Just a simple meal drop-off makes a world of difference," said dad Zack.
George's dad has worked from home and slept at the hospital, caring for his two older children by day and watching over George at night. He's eager to repay the kindness his family has been shown.
"Thank God for giving us the blessings that we have and we are ready to pay it forward," he said.
Mandros, who is Eliopulos' dad fighting brain cancer, said he is blessed with the 19 grandchildren and No. 20 on the way.
He is going through chemo, and needs five more cycles.
"Well, I made a deal with God that if he gets my daughter and grandson through this, I'll raise a lot of money and fight this crap," Mandros said.
Mandros and his daughter share the same doctor.
"He's a strong, strong person and an amazing man who through his own illness has shown no signs of weakness," Dr. Prabhu said.
It seems strength has been handed down through the generations.
"The whole family are heroes because I mean little George, he had to fight and make his own and he did it and he's still with us and thriving and I'm hoping he gets home soon," said nurse Matz.
Waiting there, family and countless friends and neighbors. Because no one fights alone.
"This isn't the end, this is the beginning of another chapter, and hopefully the chapters continue to get easier, but we still have a long way to go," said Janicki, Eliopulos' sister.
SOME GOOD NEWS
On Wednesday, the family reports that George is back home, eating well and keeping his food down.
George's brother Benjamin and sister Julianna are thrilled their baby brother is back home.
Mom has started another round of her chemotherapy last week, and her dad is right there with her as his treatments have started again too.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to support the family:
Baby, mom and grandpa battle life-threatening illnesses
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