YORKVILLE — When 14-year-old Justin Ratkovec walked out to show the family’s sheep at the Racine County Fair on Friday morning, Linda Ratkovec brought her hand to her mouth and started to cry.
Her two sons both enjoy showing animals, but it is her 18-year-old daughter’s passion, Linda said. But her daughter is in the hospital recovering from a sudden brain injury.
After undergoing brain surgery last week, Rachel Ratkovec was unable to attend the fair, so friends and family made sure the fair could come to her at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center in Milwaukee.
Ashley Seemann, 15, a rising junior at Waterford High School, took video of Justin showing the lambs so that Rachel can watch the footage later.
“She wants to be with her animals,” Linda Ratkovec said. “She is just beside herself.”
On July 14, Rachel stayed home to care for her lambs when her parents went to a Brewers game.
Rachel thought she had a migraine, but it quickly escalated into something more severe, Linda said.
Roger and Linda Ratkovec rushed back to Rachel’s side, and they learned their daughter was experiencing a brain hemorrhage caused by arteriovenous malformation (AVM), a condition that she was born with but unaware of, Linda said.
With AVM, veins and arteries are improperly connected — Linda described the AVM in Rachel’s brain as a bundle of “spaghetti noodles.”
Rachel had surgery on July 18 when doctors removed a four-inch long hemorrhage. She started therapy Thursday, according to Linda.
“I’m just so thankful she’s with us,” Linda said, starting to cry.
Rachel is a member of the Norway 4-H Club and has been for nearly 10 years. This year, she planned to show her pig, Cupcake, and the family’s four lambs with her brothers.
“We’re all pulling for her to get better and get back here,” Director of the Racine County Agricultural Society Ric Isaacson said.
A tribute to Rachel asking for “thoughts and prayers” was prominently displayed in the sheep judging barn.
“We’re all like a big family here,” said Nancy Torres, a 4-H leader and sheep committee member who worked to get footage of the fair to Rachel in some way, shape or form — either video or livestream. “She’s just the nicest girl.”
Jake Kempken, a friend of the family, showed Rachel’s pig for her, earning a blue ribbon, third place.
Rachel is a 2012 graduate of Waterford High School. With the recent turn of events, she will postpone attendance to Marion University in Fond du Lac, where she plans to study nursing.
Though Rachel named her pig Cupcake, she did not get around to naming the sheep before their showing this year, Linda said. Usually, their names center around a theme, so this year, they were christened Lucky, Miracle, Courage and Strength.