After five failed attempts to get pregnant through in vitro fertilization, Ivey Van Allen and her husband were ready to try adoption to grow their family.
Eventually, they were blessed with a little boy they named Jack. Little did they know, at a six-month check-up with the doctor, their world would flip upside down.
In this episode of "LA Stories," Van Allen tells host Giselle Fernandez that Jack was diagnosed with optic nerve hypoplasia, a disorder caused by the underdevelopment of optic nerves.
Instead of being disappointed by the news, Van Allen was undeterred.
"I knew the body," she said. "I thought, this is the perfect kid for me. This is the kid for me."
An avid exercise and yoga enthusiast who owned a fitness studio, Van Allen felt she understood the human body and jumped at the opportunity to try different types of therapy for Jack. While doctors tried to tell her that Jack might never walk, talk or see properly, Van Allen refused to listen — and it paid off.
Van Allen worked with Jack daily, building his strength and endurance. By taking him to watch baseball practice at Loyola Marymount University, Jack's eyesight miraculously improved because he was tracking the ball. His doctors were stunned by his progress — but Van Allen said she always knew he could do it.
"You are the expert because you really are going to know your kid better than anybody else."
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Van Allen said that when Jack was in first grade, his teachers left him behind during a fire drill, saying that they needed to evacuate the general population first and then go back for Jack. Infuriated, Van Allen removed Jack from the school that day and enrolled him in WISH Charter School Elementary School that promotes an inclusive environment.
When it came time for Jack to go to middle and high school, Van Allen helped develop the schools herself because she knew how special their program was. And when Jack finally walked across the stage to receive his high school diploma, after everything he's been through, Van Allen knew the moment wasn't just for Jack — it was for kids and parents everywhere who struggle with disabilities.
"This is his legacy," she said. "It's been the most rewarding experience in my life to be his mom."
Watch "LA Stories with Giselle Fernandez" at 9 p.m. every Monday on Spectrum News 1.