MORTON - The Morton High School boys’ basketball team and Coach Matt Franks are hosting the 7th 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 Reese McClain and her family – Renee, Jason, and Reese McClain. This is their story. 

Reese McClain entered the world as a happy and healthy baby girl. 

However, when Reese was 3 months old, her parents noticed that she always held her right arm flexed and her right hand in a fisted position. Also, her right leg demonstrated less movement when compared to the left.

“At 6 months of age, Reese’s pediatrician, Dr. John Galbreath, referred us to Children’s Hospital’s Pediatric Developmental Rehabilitation group for further evaluation,” said Mrs. Renee McClain. 

An MRI was performed when Reese was 9 months old and it displayed a chronic infarction in the left hemisphere of her brain with significant brain damage.  The MRI and doctors confirmed the diagnosis of Right Hemiplegia.  “The doctors believe Reese suffered a stroke in utero before she was born with an unknown cause,” said Mrs. McClain.

Her parents’ biggest concern was if Reese would ever be able to walk or talk.

At 9 months old, Reese was placed on a four-year regimen of physical, occupational, and speech therapy three days a week. 

In addition, Reese was also placed on a four-week series of constraint induced movement therapy. “The occupational therapist would cast Reese’s left arm and hand, forcing her to use her right arm and hand even more,” said Mrs. McClain. “Reese was not fond of this.”

Stem cell therapy was also needed and began when Reese was 22 months old. She received an infusion of her umbilical cord blood cells which were banked at birth. “We feel this gave Reese the boost she needed,” said Mrs. McClain. “With the help of her therapists and the stem cell infusion, two months after Reese turned 2 years old, she began to crawl, walk, and talk.”   

From there, Reese wore a hand splint on her right hand to keep it open and not fisted. She also wore a brace on her right leg and an orthotic on her right foot to help keep them straight while she was learning to walk. As she grew, Reese was in need of new splints, braces and orthotics.

Reese’s orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Jeffrey Akeson, gave Reese Botox injections in her right leg and foot muscles every 6-8 months to help relax these muscles as they naturally turned inward. Following the Botox injections, Reese wore casts on her foot and leg to help stretch those muscles even more.

When Reese was 7 years old, she was ready for surgery. Dr. Akeson performed surgery on Reese’s right leg and foot, cutting tendons in her leg and reshaping the bones in her foot to make them straighter. Following the surgery, Reese wore a cast boot for three months while she healed. 

“Reese is now 11 years old. When she is finished growing, she will have one additional surgery by Dr. Akeson on her right leg and foot to straighten them even more,” said Mrs. McClain. 

Over the years, Reese has often asked her parents, “Why did I have a stroke before I was born?” “Our response is always, ‘Honey, we don’t know why. But that is how God made you, and you will do great things because of it,’” said Mrs. McClain. 

“We are forever grateful for the Children’s Hospital of Illinois, the doctors, and the group of therapists who have worked with Reese over the years. Our hearts go out to them!”