CHICAGO (CBS) – Imagine not taking your child to the park for the first 16-months of his or her life.
That’s the reality for Jessica Allender of Hyde Park, mom to 16-month old twins Max and Coral.
Max took his first ride on a swing on Friday, before having a picnic at Bixler Playlot in Hyde Park with his family.
“It means Max is a regular baby. He just happens to have a little bit more equipment than your average guy,” Allender said. “I’m looking forward to doing it all the time, and making it a non-event.”
The twins were born three months premature last year. Both suffered congenital toxoplasmosis. Coral was able to go home some time later, but Max had three severe lung infections, and spent a lot of time in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
To the parents there, Jessica has a message.
“Keep going every day, because they’ll get there. Because it’s really hard to be in the hospital for such a long time,” she said, holding back tears. “The longest time is the first hour, and then, the next day takes about a year and a half. The next week … and so on, and it got really easy after six months.”
Max still uses a ventilator and tracheotomy to help him breathe. Jessica, her mother, and her sister spent a few days learning to use it.
While at the park, the Allenders met Elaine Wackerly, whose 16-month old son Thomas was also born premature, and needed oxygen tanks, and a nasal cannula to help him breathe.
“It was so extraordinarily hard, and I relied up on the community so much for help, so I wanted her to see a healthy 16-month old, and know that that may be in her future and give her a little bit of hope,” Wackerly said.
Max will still need the equipment for a few more years, but Mom is hopeful he’ll be done with it by kindergarten.