By Charles Peckman
During Jessi Fasse’s 20-week ultrasound, a facial development abnormality was found in the fetus. The next day, Fasse learned her child, Hunter, would be born with a cleft lip and palate.
Fasse and husband Tom were referred to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital, where Hunter was born in February 2007; that July, he underwent his first surgery.
In 2013, Hunter went through jaw-reconstruction surgery using bone from his hip. He has also gone through speech therapy, and Jessi said he is almost ready for his first set of braces.
“After the jaw-reconstruction surgery, Hunter was on a fluids-only diet,” Jessi said. “He’s had a lot of dietary restrictions after his surgeries and has been strong through the process.”
Hunter has also participated in research studies, with scientists hoping to help others born with cleft lips and palates.
Despite the obstacles, Hunter, now 10, triumphantly stormed the field of Kinnick Stadium during this year’s Homecoming game as an honorary Kid Captain.
The Kid Captain program, which started in 2009 between the Children’s Hospital and the Hawkeyes, honors pediatric patients and their families and celebrates their inspirational and heart-warming stories.
“It was really cool to look down at the field,” Hunter said. “You get to help the players and hold their hands; I talked to Josey Jewell!”
Fasse said Hunter didn’t know too many players before being selected as a Kid Captain, but Jewell is now among his favorites.
“Every year, the hospital asks for nominations for [Kid Captain],” Jessi said. “I put Hunter’s name in and got a certificate in the mail, and I tried again this year. I was overjoyed when he was selected to be the postseason Kid Captain.”
Hunter “has been a trouper,” she said, and he has overcome a lot to get where he is today. She is grateful for the Children’s Hospital and the Hawkeyes and all they do for patients and families.
“It’s amazing what the team does,” Jessi said. “There are a lot of children who have a lot of serious conditions, and [the Kid Captain program] gives them a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Kid Captains and their families, along with other patients in the Children’s Hospital, get to watch Hawkeye games in Kinnick from a bird’s-eye view. Hunter said he enjoyed watching the action from above Kinnick.
“It was really cool,” he said. “I have a lot of friends [from the Kid Captain program,] and everyone gets to watch the game.”
Jessi said they will watch the Hawkeyes take on Boston College on Dec. 27, and they are excited about the game. More important, than the game’s outcome, however, is Hunter’s continued health, she said.
“I’m just so thankful for everything [the Children’s Hospital] has done,” she said.