Memphis Doctor Builds Child Airway, Voice Box In Groundbreaking Surgery

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (KFSM) — A Tennessee boy can now talk and breather on his own thanks to a groundbreaking surgery from a Memphis doctor, our content partner WREG reports.

Two-year-old Cooper Kilburn was born without a natural way to talk or even breather. His mom and dad, Brooke and Brad Kilburn, were involved in a bad car accident when Brooke was 16 weeks pregnant with Cooper. An ultrasound alerted Cooper's parents that something was wrong with his airway, and doctors weren't sure how to fix it.

Cooper Kilburn. (Photo Courtesy: WREG Memphis)

The family visited Le Bonheur Children's Hospital in Memphis. There, Dr. Jerome Thompson discovered that Cooper had a rare condition that would leave him with no way to talk or breathe once born.

Dr. Thompson's team performed a C-section, but left the umbilical cord attached and implanted a tube in Cooper's throat known as a trach, WREG reports.

With the trach and the help of a ventilator, Cooper would be able to breathe but still didn't have a voice. He was also still at serious risk of death.

"Eight out of every 100 children who are totally trach dependent die," Thompson told WREG.

Two years later, Thompson performed another surgery on Cooper. Using part of Cooper's own ribs, the surgeon sculpted a voice box. This was the first time a procedure like that had ever been done, according to WREG.

"We snatched victory from the jaws of defeat," Thompson said.

The surgery means Cooper can eventually learn to talk and breathe without a ventilator.

Thompson says he'll always have the trach, but he'll be able to do most things a regular kid can do.

His parents are thankful for the first of its kind surgery.

"One day, Cooper's going to be telling this and we're not going to have to," Brooke Kilburn told WREG.

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