When Luke Crowder was diagnosed with laryngomalacia (floppiness of the airway above the vocal cords), his doctors informed his parents that he would grow out of it and recommended a “wait and see” approach. For the most part, he was healthy and thriving but his voice and breathing presented ongoing challenges. His voice was quiet, but high-pitched and raspy. He was hard to hear, even as a baby. His teachers and peers had to strain to hear him in class and during activities. An active boy, he had a hard time breathing when he was exerting himself, making sports more challenging.
After years of adhering to their pediatrician’s conservative approach, Luke’s parents wanted to investigate their options for treatment. A referral connected them to Lurie Children’s Aerodigestive Program for an evaluation to learn more about Luke’s condition and their options for treatment. Experts from Otolaryngology, Pulmonary Medicine, Gastroenterology and Speech Pathology worked together to discover that Luke had a connection between the two vocal cords (congenital laryngeal web) and associated congenital narrowing of his windpipe (subglottic stenosis). As a seven-year-old, he had an airway the size of a two-year-old. The team recommended reconstructive surgery to expand and strengthen his airway.
After weighing their options, Luke’s parents decided to move ahead with surgery. The team’s Gastroenterology specialists addressed Luke’s acid reflux, prescribing a regimen to tackle the issue prior to reconstruction surgery, so that his surgical site would heal appropriately. Luke’s mom, Angela, described the surgery as “the best experience they ever had.” A big part of that was the team’s work to prepare the family ahead of time. Angela shares that every step of the journey, from the procedure to the recovery, was exactly as the team had explained, so they knew what to expect. The doctors and nurses were hands-on. Angela described Sarah, the team’s APN, as their advocate, taking the time to answer every single question, and offer support and guidance.
After the procedure on June 26, Luke was in recovery for about two weeks. Post-surgery, some children require more sedation because a tube is placed in the airway to hold it open as it heals and allow them to breathe. But Luke responded very well and didn’t need as much sedation as he recovered. He was able to interact and play cards just two days after this major surgery. He used a dry erase board to communicate with his family as his airway healed, even writing “I Love You So Much” on the board the evening after his surgery.
After the surgery, Luke says he feels like a new kid. He can talk and communicate clearly and has received many compliments at school on his new voice. He’s able to be as active as can be – playing soccer, basketball, and other outdoor activities and no longer struggling with being out of breath. Luke will still require follow-up appointments and care from his Otolaryngology and Gastroenterology specialists, but he’s finally able to keep up with other kids and nothing is holding him back.