'Mayor of the NICU' leaves suburban hospital for 1st time ahead of 1st birthday

PARK RIDGE, Ill. (WLS) -- It's not every day that a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit patient walks out of the hospital.

But Max Do did just that as he left Advocate Children's Hospital in Park Ridge Monday for the first time in his young life.

There was great fanfare for the occasion because Max became known as the "mayor" of the NICU.

"He just loves people," father Dan Do said. "Anything you say to him, he'll smile. He's a good boy. Good boy."

"We take everything day by day, but overall, we're really happy and grateful," mom Kim Nguyen said. "You can see Max is a really happy baby. Every time he smiles, it's amazing. I just want to see him smile."

Max is the only child in the world known to have a mutation of a rare condition called congenital sodium diarrhea, which prevents him from absorbing nutrients.

Doctors knew something was wrong when he was born two months premature with a distended belly. It took a group effort to make the diagnosis.

"It was a great team effort from everybody, from nurses, GI, geneticists," Dr. Michael Cappello said.

Still, Max's parents didn't know what to expect.

"There was a time when we thought we were going to lose him and we were mentally getting ready for that," his father said.

But Do said they grew close to Max's doctors, nurses and hospital staff, who gave them much needed support. And over the months, Max made a remarkable recovery, relying solely on nutrition through an IV.

"Max had a ton of curveballs thrown his way and he swung hard and knocked them all out of the park," Cappelo said.

Max will still need to get nutrients through an IV, and his parents will get frequent help from nurses who will come to their home. But his doctor says Max will always be a special part of the hospital.

"Everyone's obviously ecstatic that he gets to go home and be with his family," Cappello said, "but everyone's a little sad because he's been such a big part of the NICU family."

Max turns 1 year old next week! Although, his family says they are not planning a big party.
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