Week 5 Kid Captain BraeLynn Krisinger ready to cheer on Hawkeyes

The 9-year-old captain developed a bacterial infection at just 18 months old that disrupted her airway and led to multiple surgeries.


Jerod Ringwald

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz signs a ball for kid captain Braelynn Krisinger during “Kid’s Day at Kinnick” inside Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Aug. 14. (Jerod Ringwald.The Daily Iowan)

Chloe Peterson, Assistant Sports Editor

BraeLynn Krisinger, the Iowa football team’s Week 5 Kid Captain and a lifelong Hawkeye football fan, is prepared to cheer on her favorite team as it takes the field in Maryland Friday night.

The 9-year-old lives in Des Moines and will be looking for her favorite player — senior defensive back Xavior Williams — from her living room TV. Williams became BraeLynn’s favorite Hawkeye after he walked her out of the tunnel and onto Duke Slater Field as part of the Kid’s Day celebration at Kinnick Stadium in August.

“She follows him and looks for him on the TV when we’re watching,” Christina Little, BraeLynn’s mother, said.

Christina nominated BraeLynn to be a Kid Captain because the family loves the Hawkeyes. The family also spent a significant amount of time at the Stead Family Children’s Hospital.

BraeLynn was 18 months old when she developed a serious bacterial infection that obstructed her airway. She was on a ventilator for two months at a local Des Moines hospital, but BraeLynn developed more complications from the infection and received an emergency tracheostomy.

“It was the scariest time of our lives, really,” Christina said. “I mean, we really didn’t know if she would pull through or ever be able to hear or talk again. We really didn’t know. All we could do is have faith, I guess, and hope she would pull through.”

After the tracheostomy, BraeLynn was airlifted to the Stead Family Children’s Hospital. She went through other surgeries and procedures over the next seven years, Christina said.

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“She’s had a very long and complicated medical course,” said Richard Smith, one of BraeLynn’s doctors specializing in pediatric otolaryngology. “That has been associated with a number of major operations and a number of minor operations, innumerable exams in the operating room to check her airway and to evaluate her airway, and to add it all she’s done incredibly well. And, obviously, with BraeLynn’s procedures she had to miss school. But she’s kept up with things so she’s a remarkable, remarkable girl.”

The two-hour drive from Des Moines to Iowa City has become routine over the years, Christina said. The family has landmarks along the way to point out.

BraeLynn got her trach removed in 2017.

“After I got my trach removed, I didn’t feel different by how I breathed,” BraeLynn said. “It just felt weird how I had a hole in my throat, and now I have to breathe a different way.”

BraeLynn enjoys swimming, and likes to dance, play outside with her friends, and go camping — something she couldn’t do while she had her trach.

BraeLynn had a heart and lung bypass surgery in 2019 to further aid her breathing. Now, Smith said he doesn’t expect to see BraeLynn too often back at the children’s hospital. Smith said he has seen BraeLynn twice since her 2019 surgery.

“Certainly, the frequency in which she has required care has diminished greatly,” Smith said. “On the most recent exam, nothing needed to be done. So, I hope things will be very smooth for her and that she will not require a lot of subsequent medical care.”

Braelynn and her family can’t cheer on the Hawkeyes in Kinnick Stadium this week, as Iowa is playing Maryland on the road in College Park.

But the family got a chance to be on the field at Kids Day in August, and BraeLynn walked down the Back in Black tunnel to cheering Hawkeye fans.

“I got emotional, and started crying,” BraeLynn said. “But it was happy tears. It was the first time I had ever been on the field before, and it was just fun to be down there and meet players and the coach. And it just felt like I was free and could do something more fun.”