Family bonds through struggles

Herald Intern

One Hyde Park infant got his fill of attention this week — from camera crews and newspaper reporters. 16-month-old Max Allender, born prematurely and kept in hospitals for most of his life, had his first outing to a park Friday. Max’s mother, Jessica Allender, sent out a press release which attracted TV news crews and print journalists from city-wide outlets to watch Max take a trip in his stroller to Bixler Play Lot.

Max is one of two twins. He and his sister, Coral, were born at 26 weeks. Although Coral has recovered, a common parasite Allender contracted during the pregnancy badly damaged Max’s lungs. He needs a ventilator to breath and uses other machines to help remove saliva and monitor his health. Allender hopes her son’s lungs will gain strength so that one day he will breath on his own.

Accompanied by a nurse; Max and Coral’s grandparents, Suzanne and Skip Allender; a family friend and the dog, Dodde, Allender weaved the twins’ stroller through a throng of reporters and photographers. The stroller bears the weight of Max’s 40-pound emergency equipment and ventilator. It requires a counterweight wrapped around the front wheels to keep it from tipping.

Allender hoped Max will be able to breathe without his machine by kindergarten, but said doctors told her that was unlikely.

“I am very hopeful, and the doctors have not dissuaded me from that hope,” she said.

Max receives care from skilled nursing staff each day, but Allender said his condition prevents her from taking a trip to the grocery store on her own.

“We’re having a lot of trouble,” she said about getting the assistance she needs.

Allender said she had sought media attention to send a message to other parents. Fighting back tears, she said she hoped parents would “keep going every day, because they’ll get there.”