Doctors rebuild child’s voice box in historic surgery

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- A team of doctors at a children's hospital in Memphis have successfully performed the world's first voice box reconstruction and changed a little boy's life, WMC reports.

Cooper Kilburn,2, from Adamsville, Tennessee was born with congenital high airway obstruction syndrome, meaning his trachea and larynx were blocked and he would have no voice or way to breath.

"The mortality rate's easily high 90% for this diagnosis, possibly even higher," said Dr. Jerome Thompson, an otolaryngologist at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital.

The diagnosis was made when cooper's mom, Brooke, was 17 weeks pregnant.

She was in a car wreck and an ultrasound shortly after the crash revealed something was wrong.

"If it hadn't been recognized on ultrasound because of that freak accident, and if you're religious, that accident is what brought all of this about," Dr. Thompson said. "Otherwise, when cooper was born, he was going to die."

From that point on, their journey began.

"We had fetal surgery at 22 weeks so cooper would've just eventually had his first ultra a week or two prior to that and it would've been too late," said Brooke Kilburn, Cooper's mom.

That surgery wasn't fully successful, so they were sent to Le Bonheur.

Doctors implanted a trach in cooper's throat and gave him a ventilator, but he was still at risk of not being able to talk.

"The mortality rate of trach-dependent patients tends to be high," said Brad Kilburn, Cooper's dad.

Two years later, they tried again.

Using parts of cooper's ribs, doctors were able to create a voice box and airway for cooper.

"I'd say my whole career has been preparing me for this," Dr. Thompson said.

Now, five months later, cooper is beginning to make noises and only using his ventilator at night.

"We can just sit back and think how strong he is," Brooke said.

 

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