A first in the U.S.: Children's Hospital doctors save life of baby boy, born without a trachea

MILWAUKEE -- A team of doctors at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin was able to save the life of a baby boy, born without a trachea.

According to a statement from CHW officials, never before in the U.S. has a patient survived when born without a trachea/windpipe.

Thomas Richards was born in April -- unable to breathe, CHW officials said.

Doctors at Marshfield Clinic determined he was born without a trachea. In consultation with doctors at Children's, they performed emergency surgery to get air to his lungs and transferred him to Children's Hospital of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.

There, Richards had a number of surgeries. Doctors at CHW detached his esophagus from his stomach and connected it to his lungs to serve as his trachea. According to CHW officials, a stiff sleeve of synthetic material was precisely sewn to the esophagus to expand and strengthen the tube so it could function as Thomas’ windpipe.

“I am proud to say I was part of Thomas’ care, but there were countless people involved in his care,” said Dr. John Densmore, a surgeon at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin who coordinated the case in the statement. “The doctors in Marshfield where he was born did amazing work to stabilize Thomas. Once at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, the breadth and depth of expertise the hospital offers allowed us to create a treatment plan that will allow Thomas to breathe on his own.”

According to CHW officials, over the last 100 years, less than 200 babies born without a trachea have been documented in medical literature. It is unknown exactly how uncommon the condition is, but the majority of babies die within hours of being born as they are unable to get air into their lungs.

That would have been the case for Richards, if not for a group of Wisconsin doctors who took extraordinary steps to save his life.

He is now at home with his parents and recently attended his first hockey game to watch the Minnesota Wild!

Take a look at the photos below, courtesy Children's Hospital of Wisconsin: