Kid Captain: Shawn-Brooklyn Young overcomes adversity


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On one hand, Shawn-Brooklyn Young is like most other 4-year-old boys; he’s very active and he loves to run and wrestle. He’s preparing for kindergarten and is a bit shy and nervous in crowds.

But on the other hand, Shawn-Brooklyn has faced more adversity than most kids his age.
And it all started when he was eight months old.

Bacterial meningitis shut down Shawn-Brooklyn’s body systems, and he experienced kidney failure soon after. His health began to deteriorate and his parents — decided to travel from Des Moines to Iowa City to seek treatment at the UI Children’s Hospital. At the Children’s Hospital, they learned how to perform kidney dialysis for Shawn-Brooklyn at home, so they wouldn’t have to make the 2 hour trek for treatment.

“At some points we were there one to two times a month and thankfully now we are just going every three months and following with a nephrologist here in town for the off months,” Cassondra Webb said.

While initially the family had a hard time leaving Des Moines, Webb said the hospital has made them feel at home.

“They were all so welcoming and understanding of our situation and what he had been through,” she said. “I really couldn't have asked for a better team working to get him as healthy as possible.”

Once his condition had stabilized, Shawn-Brooklyn’s parents sought kidney transplants to help solve Shawn-Brooklyn’s health issues for a longer period of time. After a roughly nine month waiting period, he received a kidney transplant. On the day of the surgery, the hospital made a banner for Shawn-Brooklyn, reading, “Happy Transplant Day!”

“Those little things make the difference,” Webb said.

Cassondra said she had heard about the Kid Captain program through flyers at the children’s hospital, where the family spent much of their time. She said the program had seemed interesting when she first heard of it, but it wasn’t until after Shawn-Brooklyn’s kidney transplant that she felt he was healthy enough to apply for the program.

The Kid Captain program began in 2009, and will soon be entering its fourth season in the spring, the time when families can apply to have their child selected as a kid captain.

As part of the program, Shawn-Brooklyn went to the UI football game at Northern Illinois University on Sept. 1. Cassondra said it was a bit strange for him at first, but once he recognized some of his fellow patients in the program, he had a great time.

“He did really well,” she said. “I don’t think he really understood what was going on, but he was clapping his hands and getting really excited.”

As far as Shawn-Brooklyn’s health after the transplant goes, Cassondra said he’s made an amazing recovery.

“He’s come above and beyond what a lot of us expected, it’s amazing to see him grow and continue to learn,” she said.

Cheryl Hodgson, the manager of marketing services for UI Health Care and co-founder of the Kid Captain program, said Shawn-Brooklyn is a “happy, outgoing little boy.”  

However, while the kidney transplant has vastly improved Shawn-Brooklyn’s health, Webb said she is worried it won’t last forever.

“One day we’ll have to go through the process again,” she said. “We’re just crossing our fingers and hoping it lasts as long as it can. But we know what we’re expecting now.”

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