A 16-month-old boy who spent the first 15 months of his life in hospitals got to visit a park for the first time on Friday morning, albeit still with the ventilator and trach tube he needs to survive.
Max Allender and his sister, Coral, were born three months premature at Evanston Hospital and quickly diagnosed with congenital toxoplasmosis. Coral went home more than a year ago, but the little boy was hit with three serious lung infections that kept him hospitalized until just last month.
"He's getting better. He's on the ventilator for probably the next four years. We're really hoping he won't take it through kindergarten," the siblings' mother, Jessica Allender, said of her son as they walked to Bixler Playlot in Hyde Park.
And while Coral has visited a park in the past, Jessica Allender lamented the toll her son's situation has taken on her young daughter.
"It's been a pretty rough ride for her, as well. I mean, she's also a premie and she was also in the hospital for a long time," she explained. "And then when she did come home she didn't get to go to the park all the time because I needed to go to the hospital."
Still, the significance of Friday's park visit and picnic was not taken lightly by anyone involved.
"It's a huge deal and I'm looking forward to doing it all the time and making it a non-event," said Allender.