Young heart transplant recipient gets special surprise from Palos Park first responders

PALOS PARK, Ill. (WLS) -- When Maxine was a year-and-half-old, she had to have a heart transplant, and it hasn't got any easier for her or her family since.

Several south suburban police and fire departments came together this Labor Day holiday weekend to make this day a special one.

Maxine had no idea this was coming.

"This is awesome," the young girl said as soon as she saw it.

"It's just incredible and overwhelming that someone would do this for us and our family," said Maxine's mother, Melissa Zolk. "She's been through a lot. All of our kids have been through a lot, you know, watching her go through stuff."

Maxine needed a heart transplant at 18 months. She's 5 years old now and still receiving treatments.

"There's a lot of guilt," said the girl's dad, Randy Zolk. "There are times when it's like, even feeling bad, like... sorry... can't go play with the neighbors' kids. No, sorry, you can't do that."

Her doctors said she could go to a water park with free passes courtesy of the Palos Park Fire Department. While the family of seven was there, firefighters went to their house and got to work.

"With Maxine's condition, she's immunocompromised, so it keeps her from being able to go to Disneyland or Disney World," said Kevyn Holdefer, a firefighter and paramedic with the Palos Park Fire Department. "Because of those inabilities to go out to those places, we wanted to bring it home to them."

When asked what was going through her mind when she saw the results, Maxine said, "I was thinking I was gonna play on it."

"She's a tough kid," her father said. "Nobody wants to get stuck with needles and be in the hospital, but she actually does pretty well with it. She's a trooper, so, there are others in worse situations and so we're always looking for a way -- what can we do now to help somebody else."
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