Photo by Kelly White
Chicago Cubs reliever Mike Montgomery, talks with avid baseball fan, Jackson Codair, 7, and his mother, Kohlby Codair, on Aug. 2 at Advocate Children's Hospital in Oak Lawn.
Jackson Codair is only 7 years old but he has undergone four heart surgeries.
Jackson has had heart surgeries for pulmonary atresia, heterotaxy syndrome, MAPCAs and hypoplastic left heart syndrome, with his first surgery when he was 10 days old and his last surgery just last month.
“We are expecting at least two more surgeries before a heart transplant in his late teens,” said his mother, Kohlby Codair, of Joliet.
Although he has spent most of his life in and out of the hospital, Jackson refuses to allow it affect his positive outlook on life, as he tries his best to be an average kid by dreaming of becoming a famous baseball player. His own physical condition prohibits him from playing sports, as his oxygen level is low, according to his mother, but that does not stop him from watching the Chicago Cubs on TV with his grandpa, Barry Nelson.
“My grandpa and I love the Cubs,” Jackson said.
Jackson was in awe on Aug. 2 as one of his favorite Chicago Cubs players, relief pitcher Mike Montgomery, visited Advocate Children's Hospital, 4440 W 95th St., Oak Lawn, to lift the spirits of pediatric patients. He was even able to get in a game of catch with Montgomery.
“This is a good experience to get out of the baseball world and take the time to talk to the kids,” Montgomery, 28, said. “It’s amazing just to see their faces. It means a lot to them, and it’s just as rewarding for me to meet them.”
Montgomery had his photo taken and signed baseball hats and balls for the patients. Jackson was even given an extra autographed Cubs hat to take home to his grandpa.
Advocate Children’s Hospital is part of Advocate Health Care, which is the official health care partner of the Chicago Cubs. The hospital usually has one to two visits from the Chicago Cubs players per season, this being Montgomery’s first visit.
“The player visits are very important to the children here,” said Cristina Enea, marketing coordinator at Advocate Children’s Hospital. “It’s such a nice experience to give to kids who are going through a lot. The smiles on the kids’ faces are everything, and not just for the kids, as the parents’ faces also light up when they see how happy their children are.”
Jackson’s mother agreed that the one-on-one visit really meant a lot to her son.
“He gets very excited when someone comes to visit him,” Kohlby said. “It makes him feel like he isn’t just a patient – he is somebody.”
Jackson was just one of 20 patients that Montgomery met with face-to-face, and all were just as happy to spent time with the pitcher that recorded the save in Game 7 of the Cubs' 2016 World Series championship.
“I love going to Cubs games and it’s amazing to see him in person,” said Emma Paris, 17, of Orland Park.
Paris was admitted into the hospital a week ago with a severe kidney infection and left on a high note, after dancing with Montgomery.
“I don’t dance but I love music and I play instruments,” Paris said. “I wanted to see his dance moves.”
Meeting Montgomery also brought a smile to the face of Skylar Lane, 16, of Riverdale. She was born with Sickle Cell Anemia but she says the disease has not brought her down, if anything it has inspired her.
“Living with Sickle Cell, I know I want to be able to help children one day who are going through something similar to me,” Lane said. “That is why I want to become a pediatrician.”
Lane said school, her family and the Chicago Cubs are three things that always put a smile on her face. Her grandmother, Johnnie Funches, and her cousins, Deja and Dakari Funches, all of Riverdale, also joined her to meet Montgomery.
“We are all really excited about this,” Johnnie Funches said. “We are all Cubs fans and we all watch baseball together as a family a lot. Montgomery is a great player.”