Kaden’s Health Journey is Everyone’s Health Journey

Kaden Kruciak and sister

Letting loose in his battery-powered Dodge Ram pickup is freedom for 7-year-old Kaden Kruciak of Cibolo, TX. And if ever a kid deserved to feel the wind in his hair—and the dust and dirt of off-road driving—it’s Kaden.

Diagnosed in-utero with a rare birth defect called congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH), meaning his kidneys, liver, stomach, pancreas and intestines developed in his chest cavity, instead of his abdomen, Kaden faced a 5% chance of survival at birth.

But he arrived via emergency c-section full of fight, managing a cry no one thought possible with lungs only two-thirds developed.  That fighting spirit carried him through what his parents, Stephanie and Todd, had been prepared to expect: multiple surgeries to repair and relocate their son’s organs to their proper homes.

It also carried Kaden through the unexpected, including a stroke when he was 3 days old, hydrocephalus (fluid build-up in his brain after the stroke), collapsed lungs, blood-clotting and feeding issues.

Kaden Kruciak

Stephanie Kruciak said of her son, Kaden: “In our hearts, we knew he would be OK. Even from the start, he had a rambunctious nature. He is a fighter.”

Looking at Kaden now—a mini-me of his Dad, down to the kid-size work truck, equipment trailer and shirt branded with the logo of the family’s landscaping business—you’d think that’s all behind him. But it’s not.

Kaden still sees 13 specialists at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio and other clinics; they monitor his organ functions and help manage the ongoing medical, developmental and behavioral after-effects of all that he has endured.

First it was ensuring Kaden’s nutrition through a feeding tube, which Stephanie mastered through research, persistence, creativity—and a blender to beat all blenders.

Then it was getting Kaden to walk, which came at 19 months, after he had learned to drive. Stephanie laughed at the memory: “He received a power-wheel truck from my parents when he was 17 months old. He couldn’t even walk yet, but he was driving it. It was spectacular to see how great a driver he became.” (After running that truck into the ground, Kaden is racking up miles on a newer model.)

Now the focus is on getting Kaden, a very bright child, to grade-level at school. Complicating things are disrupted sleep—Kaden burns calories at twice the rate of other kids, making midnight snacks mandatory—a seizure disorder and issues with attention and anxiety that may be attributed to stroke.

“I’d like to say that after seven years we’ve figured everything out, but we really haven’t,” Stephanie said. That’s where the village comes in.

Kaden’s health journey has been everyone’s health journey, with the team at Children’s Hospital and the church community Todd describes as a “backbone” holding close a big, hands-on family.

To support Kaden, Todd’s mom brings the insights of a retired kindergarten teacher who also ran a group home for patients with brain injuries. And Stephanie’s parents own a 130-acre ranch outside San Antonio, where Kaden can tear around on two wheels … or four.

Then there is his sister, Kendall, younger by a year, and 12 cousins, all close in age. These are Kaden’s cheerful wingmen, who sometimes cut him slack, and sometimes don’t, as it goes with those who love you the most.

Kruciak Family

With just 11 1/2 months between Kaden and his sister, Kendall, down time is something Stephanie and Todd Kruciak recall only vaguely, from their distant past.

“When you have a kid like Kaden, and odds aren’t always in your favor, you have to be 100% optimistic,” Stephanie said. “Rather than look at the big picture all the time, we just look at the small steps in the journey.”

That has been the couple’s approach since the first sonogram glimpses of their son, early in Stephanie’s complicated pregnancy. When they learned at 16 weeks they were having a boy, Todd proposed the name “Kaden,” from a Gaelic word that means “fighter.” Four weeks later, upon diagnosis of CDH, the suitability of the name became clear.

Todd said, “We have seen our son go from ‘not expected to survive,’ to being told he would not make it through the night, to being on life support, to having multiple surgeries. Everything we heard Kaden would never be able to do … he has done.”

And he has lots more to do.

“Kaden is spirited and rambunctious and wild,” Stephanie said. “We have a lot of hope for him, and we are going to stay faithful and positive, so we can get him to where he needs to be—and where he should be. We have pretty high expectations.”

Comments (13)

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Patty Cornett Aug 05, 2019 3:05am
This is where we can pray for the sick and there family and friends
Ashley Waege Jul 18, 2019 9:47pm
Your story is inspirational and so great to read! My daughter was born almost 10 months ago with CDH. Hers was a surprise to us. She was med flighted to another hospital where she had her emergency surgery. God bless you all and you'll be in my prayers!
Casaand neyer Jul 03, 2019 7:38am
I am so happy that he did survive we just lost our baby girl at 21 weeks gestation due to multiple complications. I would never want to see another suffer the way we are we stressed out and cried and prayed for a miracle we didn't give up hope until God took her home.
Jackie Jun 04, 2019 8:56am
A testimony of Gods love and care over Kaden. And what an amazing supportive family. Such an encouraging read.
Shanda Lewis May 31, 2019 12:14pm
I can relate to so much of this. My son was born with CDH too and was given 1% chance of survival. He will be 13 this summer. He has had other surgeries due to Syndromes and Deformity that can piggy back with CDH. These are some of the strongest kids and families in my opinion . Kaden I can’t wait to hear about the day you have worn out your work truck. Definitely will keep you in my prayers. Biggest hugs ever and lots of prayers
Tabitha Albertson May 01, 2019 5:47pm
Sweet amazing journey. I couldn’t help but read when I saw his sweet face. Bless all of you for staying strong and not just believing in doctors but also in hope from our amazing creator.
Brionne Cage-McFarlane Apr 10, 2019 5:53am
I know that feeling of doctors telling you your kid may not make it through the night, but medical science stands no chance next to the fight these kids have inside them! Go Kaden!
Betty. Vargo Mar 22, 2019 8:37pm
So amazing. He has been blessed with all the care given by tithe amazing health care workers, includes his doctors, nurses and entire medical staff. We all are blessed by the loving,caring, intelligent health care ....we All receive GOD BLESS. THEM ALL.....
Teresa L Patrick Mar 17, 2019 1:32pm
So sad I feel for the boy
Carolyn Kuespert Mar 09, 2019 10:46am
3-9-19. Just found this site..Pray all is well with your family at this time..Beautiful story..
Gillian Wright. Mar 08, 2019 4:36pm
God bless this brave kid, and his family!
I ris Pearson Mar 08, 2019 8:05am
My spirit is jumping for joy, because you never gave up on Kaden, Kaden was never going to give up, and with God all things are possible. So very proud of all of you.
Candi Hollifield Mar 05, 2019 1:23am
I just happened upon Kadens story. Wow what an amazingly Strong Boy!! You guys are certainly in my prayers!! You have a beautiful family! Thank you for sharing your story. Kaden & Kendall-you guys Rock!!