John and Nicole Allen, along with their soon-to-be two year old daughter Madelyn are this year’s Fight to the Finish Champion family! Fight to the Finish—an extreme 5k race, puts runners face to face with the elements. On the journey, they crawl through mud, wade through water, and even climb up rocky terrain. It’s a true fight to the finish, that’s making a big difference in the future of children’s health.
Allen family understands the cause first hand. This is their Children’s Hospital of Illinois story:
2013 was a roller coaster year for John and Nicole Allen. That year, Nicole gave birth to their daughter Madelyn—who is becoming more active and animated each day. In the summer of 2013, it was a different story.
“You’re Going to Be Parents!”
I was told I was the triple threat pregnancy,” Nicole reflects. “I’m in my mid-thirties, miraculously got pregnant using IVF, and was carrying twins.” For the past few years, John and Nicole had been trying to have a baby. “I cried when I got the news,” she smiles. “When they told me we were having twins…it was a double blessing and we were even more excited. A boy and a girl, it was perfect.”
Unexpected Hurdles: At 19 weeks, Nicole went in for a routine sonogram where Doctor Yolanda Renfroe discovered her cervix had become so thin she risked giving birth early. “The babies wouldn’t make it,” she explained. “Doctor Renfore put me on immediate bed rest in the hospital to help prevent that from happening. She was amazing to me and my family.”
Nicole went into labor at 24 weeks. In just three minutes, her daughter Madelyn was born on May 20th. Doctors rushed the fragile one pound seven ounce baby to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Children’s Hospital of Illinois. They managed to keep Nicole’s son Jake inside her for three more days before his May 23rd birthday. Jake arrived via cesarean section weighing one pound eleven ounces.
Moving Forward: “I was able to see both of my babies the next day,” said Nicole. “Our neonatologist, Doctor James Hocker was wonderful. He knew how much we wanted these babies and cried alongside us when he was preparing us for what our children’s future could be after arriving one day after viability” The Allen’s daughter, Madelyn, slowly continued making progress, which is rare for a baby born at that gestational age, but baby Jake’s health began to decline. “We were told a week after he was born that he had suffered from Grade IV bilateral brain bleeds, the most serious and critical stage of IVH, which can be common in extreme premature babies or “micro-preemies” as they are called,” Nicole explained. “Dr. Hocker was straightforward with us. He said there were no guarantees about his future…we just had to wait.” Jake’s health continued to digress. “Fluid from his spinal cord began building up inside his head…we were scared and helpless,” said Nicole. Jake passed away in her arms June 16th, just three weeks after his birthday.
Madelyn somehow overcame every obstacle that was put in front of her in the 83 days before coming home. She battled microcephaly, PDA in her heart, renal failure, chronic lung disease, blood transfusions, retinopathy, extreme low birth weight, and learning how to eat and breathe on her own. And, she amazingly went home for the first time with her parents, 4 weeks before her original due date, which was September 8th. Madelyn continues to amaze her doctors with her development at every evaluation and check-up. “She’s the strongest person I know,” said Nicole.
Giving Back: The Allen’s spent 3 months at Children’s Hospital of Illinois NICU where Nicole became familiar with the campus, befriended the nurses, and met new mothers just like her. That’s why Nicole and John remain active at Children’s Hospital. They volunteer, are parent mentors for current NICU families, and attend fundraising events like The Drive For Miracles Radiothon, Small Wonders Miracle Walk where Nicole is a committee member, and Fight to the Finish.
“If other families can find comfort from our family’s story, then Jake’s memory and Madelyn’s miracle will continue to live on, as they do with us every day,” said Nicole.