Michael: ‘Typical Two-Year-Old’ Following Airway Surgery

November 13, 2020

This summer, 2 ½-year-old Michael spent virtually every day playing safely in his backyard, running off excess energy. It’s hard to believe that just a year ago, this healthy little boy underwent surgery for a life-threatening airway disorder.

At birth, Michael was diagnosed with severe tracheomalacia, which occurs when the soft cartilage of the trachea collapses during breathing. Due to the severity of his symptoms, he was recommended for a tracheostomy at an area hospital that would remain in place for years.

A few weeks prior to his surgery, Michael contracted a respiratory virus and stopped breathing. Michael’s dad, Jeremy, performed CPR on his son —something he had done several times before — while waiting for an ambulance to come. They arrived in the middle of a nursing strike and were referred to Lurie Children’s.

“As it turned out, bringing Michael to Lurie Children’s was the best thing we could have done for him,” says Jeremy.

At Lurie Children’s, under the direction of expert pediatric head and neck surgeon, Taher Valika, MD, Michael was cared for by the Aerodigestive Program’s multidisciplinary group of specialists. These specialists treat children with complex breathing and swallowing disorders of the nose, mouth, throat, lungs, esophagus and stomach.

After experiencing a series of recurring blue spells, Michael underwent a minimally invasive procedure with Dr. Valika and pediatric surgeon Katherine Barsness, MD, to strengthen his trachea and prevent his airway from collapsing. He was able to successfully avoid a tracheostomy, and prevent the need for long-term care.

Since Michael’s surgery, his choking episodes have stopped, and he’s needed only a couple of follow-up appointment with his surgeons, including one through telehealth.

“With COVID going on, the video appointment was safe, thorough and saved us a drive from Kankakee (more than 60 miles from downtown Chicago),” Jeremy said.

Today, Michael is a “perfect little angel, running around and being a typical two-year-old,” Jeremy said, adding “your kid is in the best hands possible at Lurie Children’s.”