Minimally Invasive Airway Reconstruction Helps Manny Thrive

Manny was born 15 weeks early, weighing just over a pound, with some of his organs on the outside of his tiny body. After seven surgeries within the first six months of his life, Manny beat the odds, stunning his doctors and family. He went home at age six months with a sunny prognosis.

While he required outpatient therapy for speech, movement and development, Manny mostly thrived as he grew up. Still, there were some long-term effects stemming from his difficult beginning. Now 10, Manny had been living with noisy and difficulty breathing. With a history of vocal cord paralysis, Manny could speak, but running around and participating in normal activities became difficult for him, said his mom, Angela.

A change in his family’s insurance brought them to Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago earlier this year. “It was the best thing that could happen. We found the right doctor here,” Angela said.

Manny with Michael Gorelik, MD, a pediatric ENT fellow at Lurie Children's. Above, Manny smiles with Dr. Valika, left, and Carolyn Jenks, MD, a pediatric ENT fellow.

Pediatric head and neck surgeon and researcher Taher Valika, MD, performed a minimally invasive airway reconstruction surgery. In a typical procedure of this kind, surgeons must cut a patient’s neck to access and expand the airway. But Dr. Valika and his team were able to complete the procedure entirely through Manny’s mouth. The less invasive approach meant Manny would have no scar, faced fewer risks and would have a faster recovery.

“We aim to be innovative and constantly looking to improve outcomes to provide the best possible care in the world,” said Dr. Valika. 

The procedure could be the last one that Manny faces, a prospect that thrills his family. It has been about a month since the surgery, and Manny’s voice is returning to normal, and he can continue his virtual schooling and play without difficulty breathing.

“He’s been doing great,” Angela said. “He is staying strong despite everything he has been through."

Learn more about Lurie Children's Aerodigestive Program.

Lurie Children’s has implemented several safety measures related to COVID-19, including required mask-wearing, screening for COVID-19 symptoms, isolating COVID-19 suspected patients and more to ensure safety for families like Manny's. Click here for more information about the hospital’s response to COVID-19.

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