Kid captain: Cian Bonnett can’t be slowed


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There’s no stopping Cian Bonnett.

At only 8 years old, he has taught his family a lot about life. Cian, wrought with ongoing health problems, has been through a lot, but neither he nor his family is willing to give up on a normal and happy life.

“You wouldn’t know looking at him that he’s been through what he’s been through,” said Jodi Bonnett, Cian’s mother.

Cian — whose family hails from Fairfield, Iowa — was chosen as the UI Children’s Hospital’s Kid Captain for this weekend’s Hawkeye football game at the University of Michigan.

Though the video-game enthusiast is faring well these days, it did not take long for things to go wrong when he was born. In fact, it was only a few days.

“He was turning bluish gray at the lips,” Jodi Bonnett said.

A lack of oxygen caused the blue tint. Diagnosed at seven days with laryngomalacia, which makes it difficult to breathe, Cian went in for surgery on his eighth day to fix the extra skin on his voice box.
During surgery, doctors also diagnosed him with subglottic stenosis. University of Iowa Associate Professor Jose Manaligod, Cian’s doctor, describes it as a narrowing of the trachea.

“Every time he got a cold, we ended up in the [pediatric intensive-care unit],” Jodi Bonnett said.
Cian needed a more permanent solution. Only a day after his first birthday, his family brought him to the UIHC for the second surgery to widen his airway.

“It was a complicated surgery,” Manaligod said. “They took a piece of [rib] cartilage and carved it to fit his airways. They insert the graft to make it wider. The rib graft grows along with his airway.”

Cian appeared to adjust well at first, but he began gasping for air again. A month later these episodes culminated in Cian being without a heart beat for 45 seconds. Luckily, he was at the UIHC.

“The room was just instantly swarmed with doctors and nurses, and then he was just gone,” Bonnett said. “They took him.”

Doctors rushed Cian into the operating room to have his first reconstruction surgery repaired, leaving his mother behind.

“When they take your kid away, and you don’t know if you’ll get them back, it’s pretty hard,” she said.

The repair went well, and he has not experienced any airway problems since.

While Cian healed from his surgeries, doctors placed him in a medically induced coma.

“My first memory was when he was in a coma,” said Douglas Bonnett, Cian’s 15-year-old brother. “I read a book to him.”

Cian currently deals with other conditions, including the occasional seizure, but the Bonnett family do not let this stop him.

“[It’s important] just giving him the best life possible,” Jodi Bonnett said. “There are so many unknowns in his life, so we don’t know what is ahead. But as long as we can push him to be more than he is I’ll be happy.”

Cian does not let his struggles keep him from shining brightly.

“I feel he’s going to be really successful, because he’s one of those kids with a positive attitude,” Douglas said. “After having a bad day, he’ll make you feel better.”

Cian’s brother refuses to treat him as anything other than a brother.

“I like to treat him like I’d treat any other 8-year-old,” he said. “To me, he’s just my little brother.”

Cian loves snakes, school, and playfully teasing people.

Douglas said his little brother’s struggles have had a huge effect on the family.

“It’s taught me about judging — you never know what’s behind a struggling kid,” Jodi Bonnett said.
But behind Cian, Douglas sees courage.

“I think he’s very, very brave for what he’s had to endure at a very young age,” he said.

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