SYCAMORE – Like any energetic 2-year-old, Aidan Cronauer of Sycamore wanted to be able to jump and play freely at the local playground.
Unfortunately, because of a rare birth defect called a diaphragmatic hernia, Aidan does not have fully developed lungs and must be connected to an oxygen tube at all times, making swinging on swings and sliding down slides difficult tasks.
“Other kids can trip at the park [on Aidan’s oxygen tube], [or] he could trip,” said Aidan’s mom, Audra Cronauer.
This spurred the family to pursue a more private play area, she said.
Thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Aidan was gifted his own private playground this week.
Local wish granters Dori de la Cruz and Jodie Thunder celebrated Aidan’s new setup Thursday with pizza and cake at the Cronauer house on Coltonville Road in Sycamore.
“[Here], I can just let him climb,” Audra Cronauer said.
Audra Cronauer carries Aidan’s oxygen tank on her back when they go out, and Aidan travels along with the tube attached to him to aid his breathing, a cumbersome feat while in crowded spaces. Because of his condition, there is an abnormal hole in Aidan’s diaphragm, which causes organ problems and requires the oxygen hookups.
Because of common complications with the rare condition – which occurs in about 1 in 2,500 live births – Aidan also has developed severe pulmonary hypertension, and he has "received lots of therapy," Audra Cronauer said, including physical, occupational, speech and feeding therapy.
The Cronauers have an oxygen machine at the top of their stairs with a long tube that allows Aidan to stay connected but walk freely throughout the house.
“He’s able to pretty much get around [to] whatever he needs [in the house],” Audra said.
Aidan’s excitement for his new playground set was palpable Thursday. He climbed freely up the ladder to slither down the slide, hung on the swinging bars and played pretend in his car, a set of the playground made to look like a firetruck.
The set took less than two hours to construct Wednesday, said Aidan's dad, Nicholas Cronauer, who is a local attorney and currently pursuing renovating the former St. Mary's Hospital at 145 Fisk Ave. in DeKalb into a boutique hotel.
“I just love it because you can see all these happy little guys, like this one,” de la Cruz said, gesturing to Aidan, who was wearing a tiny Make-A-Wish shirt and munching on celebratory pizza.
The Cronauers have two other children – Cadence, 4, and Noah, 1 – along with two dogs. Audra Cronauer stays home full time to be with the kids.
De la Cruz credits the strength of the community for helping the Make-A-Wish Foundation grant more than 50 wishes throughout DeKalb County in the past 16 years.
“It’s a big community with a small-town heart,” she said.
As for Aidan, his future promises play all around.
“He doesn’t let this slow him down too much,” Audra Cronauer said.