Some people would quit after losing their husband to brain cancer and becoming a widow with six children ranging from 15-7 years old or going through 10 surgeries for club feet for their child or maybe even after having a son nearly died of dengue fever that led to dengue hemorrhagic fever while on an LDS mission in Peru, but none of this could stop Morgan resident Cindy Cloninger. “I don’t ask why,” she commented, “I just ask how.” And now that Cloninger is in her fifth year of a fight against her 13-year old daughter Maegan’s uncontrolled or refractory epilepsy, she still is not quitting; she is fighting to “exhaust every option and uncover every stone” to help Maegan.
Cindy’s story begins in Roy, Utah and moves to Dallas, Texas where she met her husband, John. After podiatry school in Chicago, residency at Fort Bragg, NC and a stint at Fort Hood, Texas, the Cloningers were looking for a place to settle after John completed his military service having served in both Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Cindy’s brother, Greg Denning, taught seminary in Morgan and led John and Cindy to the valley. “Morgan has been everything that we wanted. After John died, the community has wrapped its arms around us and helped me raise our children.”
In 2007, the couple traveled to China to adopt their youngest son, Eli, who was born with club feet and has endured 10 surgeries. Then in February 2012, John passed away from brain cancer. In the ensuing months, Magen, age seven, began to have trouble sleeping at night, struggling at school and being afraid to go to sleep. Attributing the distress to the loss of her father, Cindy said that it took over a year to diagnose Maegan’s epilepsy which has steadily gotten worse and worse.
“Some days she may have 120 small seizures coupled with three grand mal seizures, each lasting over five minutes. These are the kind of seizures that 1/150 kids die from,” Cindy explained. “She has many of her seizures at night and cannot be left alone at all. She sleeps in my room at night, so I can watch her.”
“She hasn’t completely responded to any treatments. We keep trying different things, but it’s like different layers of help that we are able to find. A ketogenic diet helps, her medication and supplements help, and her hyperbaric oxygen chamber also keeps her seizures down, but no one thing has proven to stop her seizures,” Cloninger explained. “That’s why her epilepsy is labeled uncontrollable.”
“At her sickest she can only be up two hours a day, and when she is feeling better she can attend school part-time,” she continued. “We have to constant adjust our family’s schedule to hers. Different foods, stress and her sleep cycle can trigger seizures. We can’t wake her up; we just have to let her wake up on her own.”
“My kids (Austin-21, Kiersten-19, Amber 17, Caleb-14 and Eli-13) are amazing. They never complain and rally around Maegan. They support her although our entire life is dictated by her disease. We can’t ever do anything in the evenings because it is her hardest time,” Cloninger elaborated. “I am so proud of them. Austin just finished a year at BYU, and Kiersten a year at BYU-Hawaii. Amber will be a senior next year at MHS, and Caleb has saved Maegan’s life more than once in a swimming pool when he had to hold her head above water when she had a seizure. Eli has endured his surgeries. They are super patient!”
“Maegan’s medication, supplements and specialized diet cost $2000 a month, and I am not able to work more than part-time from home because Maegan can’t be left alone,” she detailed.
“But with every hard thing that we’ve had, we have piles and piles of wonderful blessings and miracles, like this concert and fundraiser,” she shared optimistic as always.
Enter Julie Burraston.
Julie Burraston, who lost her husband, Gary, June 30, 2017, is spearheading the effort to raise money for Cindy Cloninger, a fellow widow.
“As the one-year mark of Gary’s death approaches,” Burraston noted, “It has made me happy to be doing this and helping at this time. Cindy has walked me through the last year with grace and compassion and taught me how to live as a widow. She’s my widow sister.”
Burraston, who personally knows The National Parks band, has arranged for them hold a fundraising concert in Morgan on Saturday, June 9 at Morgan High at 7pm. The National Parks are donating their performance to the family. All funds raised through the concert (tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for kids at the door) and silent auction will go to Cindy Cloninger to pay help pay for Maegan’s medical expenses.
“There is nothing I can do to bring back John or cure Maegan’s illness, but I can try to help fund raise to make this easier for Cindy,” Burraston shared. “This is the one thing that I can do when Cindy is trying so hard to do everything she can.”
If you would like to donate to the silent auction, please contact Julie Burraston. Monetary donations can be made at Golden West Credit Union, and tickets can be purchased at the door the night of the concert.