Baby Sam’s doctors feared he wouldn’t survive long.

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Born 17 weeks premature, Sam had a serious respiratory condition. His little lungs were barely an inch long and he needed a ventilator to help him breathe and keep him alive.

For the first five days of his life, Sam was so fragile he couldn’t be picked up or cuddled. For his parents, Kelley and Jeff, it was the most frightening thing they’ve ever been through.

After spending the first six months of his life in intensive care and Grace Centre for Newborn Care, Sam went home to be with his family on their farm.

Kelley and Jeff were thankful their little boy was alive but they knew it was just the beginning of a long and difficult journey.

Sam had scarring and damage in his throat, vocal chords and lungs, and had developed a chronic condition called spasmodic croup.

 "It’s a bit like asthma, where he can’t get air in or out. All kinds of things can set him off: dust, hot or cold weather. When it happens, it happens quickly. One moment he’s fine, the next he’s passed out. It’s really scary" said Mum, Kelley.

Sam’s condition means he often gets chest infections. And sometimes his airways close up and he stops breathing. He has been rushed to the Hospital many times in a critical condition – including once with a collapsed lung. His parents live with the constant fear that he could stop breathing and they won’t be able to help him in time.

Desperate for a solution, Sam and his family came to see Ear, Nose and Throat Surgeon at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, Alan Cheng. Dr Cheng explained the situation:

 "Sam couldn’t close one of his vocal chords properly. That was a problem because, if you don’t close your vocal chords, things like food and fluids can go into your lungs and you get infections or you choke."

Sam underwent a procedure to fix his vocal chords which had never been performed in Australia before. Kelley and Jeff were delighted when the operation proved a success. He’s breathing better and getting stronger every day. That means he’s been able to do things he never thought he’d be able to, like play rugby and pursue his dream of becoming a stand-up comedian.

Dr Alan Cheng and our other amazing doctors understand how illness can harm a child and they are always looking for better ways to help. Your support will give them the on-going training and technology they need to provide the very best care.

Although Sam is doing well, his journey is far from over. He will always have problems with his breathing, which means he will need to visit the Hospital regularly throughout his childhood for treatment and check-ups.

Sam will need more surgery as he continues to grow – including a big operation to rebuild his airways. The Children’s Hospital at Westmead has become a home-away-from-home for Sam and his family.

With ongoing medical care and treatment, we that Sam’s dream to become a stand-up comedian will come true.


Show your support #forsickkids like Sam.

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