MEMPHIS, Tenn. (CNN) A team of doctors in Memphis have successfully performed the world’s first voice box reconstruction and changed a little boy’s life.
Two-year-old Cooper Kilburn from Adamsville, Tennessee, was born with a congenital high airway obstruction syndrome, meaning his trachea and larynx were blocked and he would have no voice or way to breathe.
“The mortality rate’s easily high 90 percent for this diagnosis, possibly even higher,” said Dr. Jerome Thompson, an otolaryngologist at Le Bonheur.
The diagnosis was made when Cooper’s mom, Brooke, was 17 weeks pregnant. She was in a car wreck and the 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. And otherwise, when Cooper was born, he was going to die,” said Dr. Thompson.
From there, 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.
That surgery went 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 for 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 part of Cooper’s ribs, Doctors were able to create a voicebox and airway for Cooper. “I’d say my whole career has been preparing me for this,” said Dr. Thompson.
Now, five months later, Cooper is beginning to make noises and only using his ventilator at night. “One day cooper is going to be telling this and we’re not gonna have to,” said Brooke Kilburn. “We can just sit back and think how strong he is.”