Alexander Hilton has been hospitalized with a rare disorder since he was six weeks old. His parents have had to give up their jobs splitting time between Alex and their other children. Because the toddler has a compromised immune system, Angie's List Wishmakers program made improvements to the home that allowed Alex to come home for Christmas.
Myriam Lallemand and her two daughters were glued to the computer Monday, looking at pictures of a Christmas they will never forget. For the first time, their 2-year-old brother Alex came home.
"When you spend so much time in a hospital, holidays and birthdays, it's just another day," Lallemand said. "When he came home for Christmas, it wasn't just another day, it was the biggest gift I could have ever imagined."
Alex Hilton was born a healthy baby-- until he was six weeks old. That is when the newborn was diagnosed with a rare fatal blood disorder called HLH.
Alex was transferred to a hospital in Cincinnati that specializes in treating HLH. He has been there ever since, enduring two years of blood transfusions, chemotherapy, tests and a bone marrow transplant.
"You don't know if you are planning a funeral or a homecoming," said Lallemand. "But it was evident that this time around it was a homecoming."
With the help of Alex's godfather, George Rossano, Alex's mom and dad prepared their Chicago Heights home for a 48-hour visit for Alex.
Because Alex does not have an immune system, their home had to mimic a hospital environment. So, Rossano reached out to Angie's List Wishmakers program for help from contractors to install an air purification system.
"We've been friends forever. If I was in the same situation, they'd pull through just like I did the same for them," said Rossano.
Three local businesses offered to install more than $3,600 worth of home repairs, including the small family-owned Air Team Corporation.
"Maybe we don't have a lot but there are others who have less, and we believe it's important to give back ," said Air Team's Agata Kafel.
"Without friends, family, church, community, we would have failed long ago," said Lallemand.
Lallemand says without the donated improvements to their house, Alex never would have been able to make it home.
The visit was brief. His father drove his son back to the Cincinnati hospital early Monday morning. The family is hoping the trip home was a trial run for a permanent return home in January.