Kevin Misener poses with some gifts he received at the Wayne County 4-H Fair’s rodeo. Photo by DAJO Photos.

Last year, young Kevin Misener couldn’t make his annual trip to the Wayne County 4-H Fair to see the 3-J Rodeo because he was hospitalized at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.
This year, 5-year-old Kevin had a front row seat.
Kevin, who has multiple health issues, learned to love the rodeo from his mother, Erica Stutts of New Castle. During her father’s military service, the family lived in Colorado where rodeo was a way of life.
When Kevin was 18 months old, Stutts began the family tradition of bringing him to see the rodeo at the Wayne County fair.
Kevin’s favorite cowboy is Bronc Fletcher of Centerville. Fletcher, who appears with the 3-J (pronounced three bar J), is one of the top 15 bare back riders in the country.
Just before the rodeo began Thursday at the Richmond fairgrounds, Fletcher surprised Kevin by visiting him in the bleachers.
It was part of a special presentation for Kevin from the rodeo company, the Wayne County Fair Committee and others.
Fletcher hunkered down to the boy’s level where Kevin asked if he could ride the bucking horse with him. Kevin wished Fletcher good luck, but he became shy when the rodeo announcer Matt McGee held the microphone close to hear Kevin’s soft voice.
As Fletcher departed to prepare for his contest, the announcer wheeled out a wagon full of gifts for Kevin.
The wagon was a gift from Crossfire Cowboy Church, Willow Grove Nazarene and the Wayne County Fair committee. Boots were donated by the Boot Box of Hagerstown, chaps and a shirt came from The Rodeo Shop in Eaton, Ohio, and a personalized belt, buckle and cowboy hat were provided by R&C Tack of Portland.
Kevin was in awe, but he eagerly slipped out of the cowboy boots he wears every day to put his small feet into his new boots. Hat on his head, belt wrapped his middle, Kevin was ready for the rodeo.
‘Folks this is what rodeo is about – it’s about making dreams come true,” the announcer said.
Wayne County Fair Committee member Sheila Shaw of Williamsburg helped coordinate the presentation for Kevin. “We’ve been 4-H leaders for years. Why do I do it? Right there,” she said, pointing to Kevin. “We do it for the kids.”
“I’m emotional and grateful,” Stutts said. “It amazes me how much people are willing to put themselves out for somebody they don’t know. We’re thankful for everybody and the prayers he gets.”
Kevin was born 5 ½ weeks early and Stutts remembers his tiny lips turning blue sometimes. She knew there was something physically wrong with Kevin but it took time for doctors to realize that he had heart problems.
In spring 2017, one echocardiogram turned into two, with the second being administered by the head of cardiology at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis and a single day of tests expanded to several.
As Indianapolis doctors dismissed Kevin and told Stutts they would arrange for her to take Kevin to Cincinnati Children’s in two days. By the time they got home to New Castle, doctors from Cincinnati wanted Kevin at the hospital in two hours.
They told Stutts to pack for a weekend. Kevin ended up being a patient at Cincinnati Children’s for six months.
Kevin’s major issue is idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension, which means he has high blood pressure in his pulmonary arteries that carry the blood from the right side of the heart to the lungs.
This hypertension is rarely seen in children. It is more likely to be diagnosed in women ages 20 to 30, Stutts said. “There’s no reason they can think of why he has it.”
Kevin also has bronchiectasis, which means his airways are damaged and it’s hard for his body to clear the mucus from his lungs. Kevin also was born without the top lobe of his left lung.
During his stay at Cincinnati, Kevin underwent multiple heart catherizations.
He also had a reverse Potts shunt put in to connect the aorta and the artery that sends blood to the lungs.
Stutts said Kevin is technically known as the only person in the world to have the procedure done in the reverse. Doctors told Stutts that without the surgery, Kevin wouldn’t have lived another week.
“(Kevin) has people around the world studying him and his symptoms,” Stutts said. “He amazes us every day.”
Kevin receives oxygen all the time through a breathing tube connected to a backpack containing a small oxygen tank. He also takes 10 medications each morning, four more at 2 p.m. and seven others at 8 p.m., Stutts said.
“We can deal with anything as long as he’s still here,” Stutts said. “We take it doctor’s appointment by doctor’s appointment. We’re grateful for every day we have.
“As of right now, he’s doing good. It’s day by day, minute by minute. His heart and lungs could stop at any time,” Stutts said. “If we’re extremely lucky we’ll have another nine years or so with him.”
Stutts said she and her fiancé, Ernie Combes, and the rest of their family – sister Kayleigh Stutts, 12, and step-siblings Brooklyn Cox, Dylan Combes, Keaton Combes and Leila Combes – try not to treat Kevin like he’s sick.
Kevin is a common 5-year-old who explained, before the rodeo began, that his favorite way to eat cotton candy is to smush the blue and pink together.
He also loves superheroes and knows all about them. He loves anything with wheels or motors.
His favorite tractor is a John Deere. And don’t even thinking of arguing the merits of a Farmall tractor with him. Kevin’s stubbornly anti-Farmall.
Of course, he loves the rodeo. Last year, when the family missed seeing the rodeo at the Wayne County fair, Stutts emailed the 3-J Rodeo to see if they would be appearing anywhere near Cincinnati. In response, when the rodeo troupe stopped in Lawrenceburg, Ind., three representatives, including Fletcher, took time to visit Kevin in the hospital and bring him gifts.
But this year, Kevin was back in the bleachers where he belonged. And after the rodeo events began, he was so transfixed his chatter died away. So, what did he think of his gifts and his eventful day?
“Good” was all Kevin had to say.
— By Rachel Sheeley. This story first appeared in the July 4 edition of Nettle Creek Gazette. For more information about subscribing for $30 per year to Nettle Creek Gazette or Western Wayne News (or both with a digital-only subscription), call (765) 478-5448 or visit Print subscriptions are a few dollars elsewhere in Indiana or around the United States.

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