Savannah Rausch is your normal basketball-loving senior at Lakeview. She is a hard worker and proactive who has been engaged in team sports since fourth grade. Interested in nursing, Savannah obtained her CNA certificate last year as a junior so she could work in the Minneota Manor aiding in long-term care needs. On December 10th, during a heated game, Savannah injured her shoulder. A team father and trained medical doctor noticed something about Savannah's face that would change her life and possibly save her life.

     Dr. Curt Louwagie noticed the combination of Savannahs eye drooping, a cough, shoulder pain and his instincts kicked in as he suspected Horner's Syndrome, where damage has been inflicted to the “sympathetic trunk” the nerves running form the base of the skull to the tailbone. There is generally an inciting cause for this condition, and starting on December 11th Savannah started undergoing a series of tests that eventually revealed a 2-3 inch contained mass in Savannahs chest, running down her esophagus to her left lung. Within five days of the mass discovery, the Lakeview student was in McKennan Hospital in Sioux Falls to undergo a biopsy of the mass. On Christmas eve the Rausch family got the call confirming all their worst fears. Mike Rausch, Savannah’s Father remembers the call “it was a hard blow, especially on Christmas Eve.”

    Mike has watched his little girl be a fighter and leader her whole life. In basketball, volleyball, caring for her teammates, he had a front row seat as her coach for 4th, 5th, and 6th grade. On December 27th her family sat and watched supportively as Savannah began her first round of chemotherapy.  She will have six total rounds of chemotherapy. The treatment timeline is five days of chemotherapy at Sanford Children's Hospital and then 16 days off, a total 21 day cycle. When Savannah is in treatment, now at Sanford Children’s Hospital, the chemotherapy is infused in 24 hour increments, a bag of chemo medicine runs for 24 hours and then once empty a new bag is started for another 24 hours, keeping the teen hooked up to chemo for 96+ hours during the 5 day stay.  After the 96+ hours of chemotherapy she then needs to be on fluids for 24 hours to flush her system and then she receives a shot of Neulasta, helping her body make white blood cells and boost her immune system. After the Neulasta shot is administered, Savannah is able return home for 16 days. Savannah most recently this past week began chemotherapy round three.

    Savannah being the hard working quality student she is, was fortunate enough to have almost enough credits to graduate before this diagnosis. The senior was taking some college classes to get a jump start on next year when she leaves for Minnesota State University of Moorhead (MSUM) with her sights set on the Nursing program.  Her father Mike said, “ We met with school officials after her first round of chemotherapy and they were very accommodating in setting up a school schedule that would allow her to focus 100% on her health during this time. We were very appreciative of them doing that and allowing Savannah to participate at school when she was able.” 

   Savannah has blood drawn twice a week while home at a clinic in Marshall. As long as her levels are acceptable she can be out and about, still experiencing pieces of her Senior year.  Given her love of basketball and sense of duty as the varsity team Captain, Savannah wanted to participate before the season came to an end. She was given the OK recently by medical staff to try practicing and see how that went. Savannah felt good on the court, pushing the competitive envelope of her ‘no limits attitude,’ she asked to play in the next game, senior night against Minneota.  Her medical team acquiesced to her strong spirit, and approved the teen to play, prompting Savannah to go on to score the first basket of the game and making a total of eight points in the fifteen minutes she played. It was a night her father says “she will never forget.” The family notes Coach Mike Imes has been phenomenal in keeping her involved in the team when she is in Cottonwood or in Sioux Falls “he is a true coach that cares.”  Savannah is hopeful when she gets home after round three of chemotherapy she will feel well enough to practice and play again.

   The Rausch family is grateful for the community of Cottonwood that “has been unreal in supporting Savannah,” but Mike notes that it’s not even just Cottonwood. ”Every town we have gone to for basketball games has recognized her and supported her.  It's truly amazing to see the two teams compete to win the game for 36 minutes on the floor but when the game is done to all come together and support Savannah - can't say enough about all the teams and how supportive they have been for her and our family”. 

   Future ways being organized to support Savannah are a roast beef dinner hosted by the National Honor Society at Lakeview the evening of February 11 and another upcoming fundraising event on March 14. For more information about Savannah, her story, her fight and her triumph visit the families Caring Bridge page