The Morton High School boys’ basketball team and Coach Matt Franks are hosting the 6th annual Gameball Run event to raise money and awareness for Children’s Hospital of Illinois. Each school in District 709 has selected a Miracle Family to represent the services provided by Children’s Hospital and the impact it has on Morton families. To financially support Gameball Run, donate online at www.MortonGameballRun.org. Each school is hosting events, with all proceeds going to Children’s Hospital of Illinois.

The Miracle Family representing Lettie Brown Elementary School is the Zoss family – Ben, Shantel, Madeline, and Mallory Zoss. This is their story.

Mallory was born unexpectedly in December 2009, five weeks ahead of her due date. Mallory was immediately taken to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at the Children’s Hospital of Illinois.  Mallory only weighed three pounds and three ounces and measured 15 inches long. She was small for her gestational age.  Mallory was monitored closely in the first few days of her life.  She began her journey on a feeding tube, but within days was weaned off and taught how to drink from a bottle. Mallory did lose some of her birthweight, but was otherwise relatively healthy.  The doctors ran tests in search of a condition that led to her small size or her being born early. They did not find any cause for concern.

Mallory spent the first several days of her life in an incubator. “The NICU nurses were so helpful in teaching us how to care for Mallory while she was in the hospital,” said Shantel Zoss. “Diaper changes, temperature monitoring, and bottle feeding is difficult when your baby is hooked up to monitors and tubes. They were all understanding that we wanted to be able to do as much as we could for Mallory while she was in the hospital. We were also confident that she was being well-cared for by the nurses when we were not able to be at the hospital with her.”

In order for Mallory to be discharged, she needed to begin gaining weight consistently and maintain her own body temperature.  The family was eager to take her home to meet her older sister, Madeline.  Due to a serious flu outbreak, the hospital restricted all children from visiting. Madeline was not allowed to go to the NICU and meet her new baby sister. Pictures and videos that were brought home would have to suffice. 

“The wonderful staff at the Children’s Hospital set a goal for Mallory to be discharged before Christmas so we could spend the holiday at home together as a family,” said Shantel. “Unfortunately, Mallory was not ready and suffered a few setbacks in the days before Christmas.  However, the hospital relaxed their visiting policy for the holiday and Madeline was finally able to meet her baby sister on Christmas Eve. Madeline was delighted to see her little sister in person and she was able to read her some books.” 

Before Mallory was discharged, the Children’s Hospital conducted a hearing test on Mallory. Her test results indicated hearing failure in the right ear. “She never passed the screening in her right ear, which we were told was not too 

uncommon,” said Shantel. ‘We were asked to bring her back to repeat the test, as there were several reasons why she may have failed the initial screening.”  

Mallory continued to make progress and was released from the Children’s Hospital a few days after Christmas. “We were thrilled to have her home with us,” said Shantel Zoss. “Once she came home, she gained more weight.”

The follow-up hearing test showed subsequent failure again in her right ear. Mallory was referred for further testing. It was determined that she did having hearing loss in both of her ears. The hearing loss in her right ear was more significant than her left. Mallory was fitted with a hearing aid for her right ear when she was only eight months old. This was very important for her development to have full access to sounds and speech at such a young age.

Today, Mallory is a healthy, happy 8-year-old.  “We are so thankful for the doctors, nurses, and staff at Children’s Hospital of Illinois,” said Shantel Zoss. “They provided wonderful care for Mallory and were helpful in preparing us to care for her at home.  We are blessed to have such an excellent facility so close to us in Morton. We encourage everyone to support the Children’s Hospital through Gameball Run to ensure other families are provided with exceptional care for their children in years to come.”