The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

2023 Iowa football Kid Captain Wyatt Rannals exudes courage and joy

Even while facing hypoplastic left heart syndrome, the 9-year-old is always making others smile.
Photo contributed by Monica Rannals of Wyatt Rannals.

Wyatt Rannals loves music.

Along with his family and strength, music is one of the consistencies in the 9-year-old’s life that brings joy to a boy with a complex medical history. 

At only three months old, Rannals received a heart transplant at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital that saved his life. Now years later, Rannals will take the field at Kinnick Stadium as a 2023 Kid Captain for Iowa football’s game against Michigan State. 

Before Rannals was born to his parents, Monica and Jeremy Rannals, an ultrasound revealed a large cystic hygroma, which is an abnormal growth along the spine. This led to his diagnosis of hypoplastic left heart syndrome, meaning that the left side of his heart was severely underdeveloped and couldn’t adequately support his body and the blood flow it needed. 

Typically, someone born with that condition would undergo a variety of surgeries, but when Wyatt was born, his heart was much weaker than expected. He was a lot sicker than his family had anticipated, Monica said. 

Instead of surgery, doctors determined the best option for him would be to list him for a heart transplant and try to keep him stable until one became available. While waiting for a heart, Rannals suffered a massive stroke due to a blood clot, causing a quarter of his brain to be affected.

Since the transplant, Rannals has had multiple sets of tubes in his ear and a gastronomy tube to deliver nutrients into his stomach. He also regularly participates in physical, occupational, and speech therapies. 

Rannals’ family is happy with their experience at UIHC and grateful for the expertise and kindness of the nurses, doctors, and staff there, Monica said. Jeremy even says that he is always making the nurses and everyone who crosses his path laugh with his wit and joy.

Rannals said he has stayed positive and determined throughout his entire journey. He is constantly listening to music of every genre, though his latest fascination is AC/DC. He can even connect his new hearing aids to his iPad and listen, he said. 

After talking about Iowa’s pregame songs, Jeremy said “Back In Black” and “Enter Sandman” would blare at five in the morning. 

“To this day he blasts music when he gets up on school days. By seven o’clock he’s playing music. Bedtime he blasts music The correct words or not? He makes up his own,” Jeremy said.

For Rannals Kid Captain song, he chose “A-O-K” by Tai Verdes, a tune that had special meaning to him and his family. 

“Every single time we go to the hospital we always sing ‘It will be a-oh-a-okay,’” Rannals said.  

Rannals went to his first Hawkeye football game last season and immediately wanted to go to another, even before he knew about Kid Captain. When he found out he would have this opportunity, he said and everyone around him was ecstatic. 

“When he’s faced with a new challenge and he may be nervous or scared, we always remind him, ‘Wyatt, you can do hard things,’” Rannals’ mom, Monica Rannals, said. “He’s done so many hard things his entire life and he hasn’t stopped or given up and we know that this kid can do anything he puts his mind to.”

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About the Contributor
Julia Rhodes, Reporter
Julia Rhodes is a first year student at the University of Iowa majoring in Journalism and Mass Communications and minoring in Dance. She loves writing as well as presenting that work on screen and is hoping to be equally a Daily Iowan reporter as well as a DITV reporter. She enjoys writing about all topics from crime and politics to arts and public health.