Daniela Cataldo recalls the joy she experienced during her first pregnancy, a baby boy that would be named Piero. That joy quickly turned into worry when Cataldo went into early labor at 27 weeks gestation.
Weighing only 2.9 pounds, the baby boy was intubated to help his developing lungs receive oxygen. Piero spent three months in a Miami hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit where doctors were unsuccessful at removing the breathing tube once his lungs matured.
"I remember they tried to do it about ten times. Something just didn’t seem right," recalls Cataldo. The doctors suggested that Piero would need a tracheostomy, an operative procedure to create an airway or place a breathing tube in the trachea, but Ms. Cataldo wanted to explore other options first.
Piero was transferred to Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, a referral center for some of the most critically-ill infants in the state with a Level III and II NICU
, to undergo specialized care and evaluation.
Dr. Yamilet Tirado
, Pediatric Otolaryngologist
at Nicklaus Children’s, was among a team of pediatric subspecialists that cared for Piero. After a slew of imaging tests, Dr. Tirado discovered Piero had subglottic stenosis, a condition in which scar tissue or trauma causes a narrowing, and sometimes an obstruction, in the windpipe that inhibits airflow.
A typical course of treatment for patients with subglottic stenosis is a tracheostomy but Dr. Tirado, who has experience performing tracheal reconstruction surgery, saw the potential in Piero’s case to create larger opening in his airway using a graft from his thyroid cartilage.
“Our goal is to provide the best possible outcome for our patients and in Piero’s case this surgical option provided the potential for a life free of medical limitations and machines, said Dr. Tirado.
A week after surgery, Piero was breathing on his own and was slowly being weaned off medications.
Today, Piero is growing to be a rambunctious, loving little boy.
"I am forever grateful to Dr. Tirado and her team for all they did for Piero. To see him breathing on his own and living life as a toddler should at this age is the best gift a mother can receive," she said.