Baby Sam’s doctors feared he wouldn’t survive long.
Born 17 weeks premature, Sam had a serious respiratory condition. His little lungs were barely 2.5 centimetres 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 the Grace Centre, 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," Kelley said.
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. Jeff and Kelley 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 Alan Cheng, Ear, Nose and Throat Surgeon at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, who said:
“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.”
The procedure to fix Sam’s vocal chords was complex and had never been performed in Australia before. Kelley and Jeff were delighted that Sam’s operation was 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.
Although Sam is doing well, his journey is far from over. He requires another operation to rebuild his airways and 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.
With ongoing medical care and treatment, it is hoped that Sam’s dream to become a stand-up comedian will come true.