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For 21 years Earl Boitnott has done it all at the Bloomington Public Works Department.
“Sweep streets, pick up debris and dirt out of the street, tore out sidewalks, replaced curbs, basically everything down there I’ve had a little part of,” Boitnott recalled.
Now the Hudson man is looking for ways to help others even as he battles for his life.
Recently Boittnott started losing weight fast. He wasn't feeling well. Two weeks ago, the 45-year-old complained of a headache. He wanted to go home and rest. Wife Gina insisted he go to the doctor.
“I made him go in and we described his symptoms to the nurse and the nurse told him he had a migraine, so I told the doctor his symptoms and the doctor said, ‘Let’s do a CT (scan),’” Gina Boitnott said. “That’s when we found the tumor.”
It was an inoperable brain tumor. The GBM (gioblastoma multiforme) grew to the size of a golf ball in only a few months. Doctors estimate Boitnott has about a year and a half to live if he responds to treatment.
“That’s when you just say well, we are going to make the best of it,” Earl Boitnott conceded.
Gina was grateful he got it checked out when he did.
“We were told by the neurosurgeon had he not been taken to the ER that day or soon, because he was fighting it, he would have only lived another week and a half,” she said.
The Boitnott family now faces what AFSCME union representative Renee Nestler calls “astronomical medical bills.” She and Boitnott's co-workers are pitching in to help a man who has done a lot for them.
“Earl, Gina and their sons are selfless individuals that are always there when someone is in need,” Nestler told the Bloomington City Council on Monday while announcing a benefit for the Boitnott family. “Earl has always been the first to show up and the last to leave when helping others with projects.”
AFSCME is putting on a benefit for Boitnott next month, returning the favor to a family that's known for helping friends with their handiwork. Boitnott shrugged off his own charity as no big deal.
“I didn’t do anything for money usually, I just went over then helped them,” he said. “We’d do roofs and stuff like that on the side just for them and never wanted anything.
“Now they are doing this for me and it kinds of makes me feel bad a little bit.”
Boitnott figures his days are numbered. He had to retire from his job. He needs help to walk. There are a few things that get him up every morning. One of them is the birth of his first grandson, expected in December.
“I was kind of being a little selfish, I want to see them come through and be able to hug them and hold on to them as long as I can,” Boitnott said. “Hopefully I can get enough of that time and after that, whatever happens happens.”
Boitnott said he's at peace.
“The relief, I feel better, I don’t have any ... I’m going to pass away and hopefully I can touch some people along the way and maybe get a smile or two out of myself and maybe make them smile,” he said.
“It’s going to be OK. It’s going to be OK and that’s what keeps me going.”
Boitnott also wants his story to be a lesson for others. If you aren't feeling well, he said get checked.
“If I can help somebody maybe have that little headache and then they go in and get it checked out or something to help them where it doesn’t get this bad,” He said. “Maybe they will have a little more time.”
Boitnott said he knows his time is short, but he hopes he can save some for others before it's too late.
The cancer benefit for Earl Boitnott will be Sunday, Nov. 3, from noon to 5 p.m. at the Moose Lodge, 614 IAA Dr., Bloomington. The event will feature food, live music, a silent auction, raffle, bake sale and more.
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