A move to Miami in 2019 led to a happy transformation for little Victoria Carias and her parents. Victoria, who was born prematurely in 2015, still had the tracheostomy tube that was placed in her neck to support breathing when she was an infant.
In need of a new physician to manage Victoria's care after relocating to Miami, Victoria's mother, Daniela brought her to Dr. Brian Ho, Director of the Airway Program at Nicklaus Children's Hospital. The news he gave them was eye opening.
“We had no idea that Victoria could be considered for a trach tube removal (decannulation)," said Daniela. “This possibility was never mentioned by her previous care team. Dr. Ho started talking about it the first time we met him and kept us moving toward this goal to help give Victoria a more normal life."
The first step took place in December 2019, when Dr. Ho performed a six- hour surgery in which two pieces of cartilage from Victoria's rib cage were used to repair the front and the back of her trachea, which had been scarred years before due to her prematurity. After two and a half months, tracheal healing was complete and the tube could then be removed. A few minor procedures followed to close the hole or “stoma" from the tracheostomy tube. Victoria then looked like her 5-year-old friends, running and playing without any restrictions.
“Complex decannulation surgery is only offered at a few children's hospitals in Florida," said Dr. Ho, who came to Nicklaus Children's after receiving specialized training at one of the nation's top hospitals in pediatric airway surgery. “We are so pleased that we could help make a big difference in Victoria's life."
As for Victoria, she enjoys dressing up without her trach tube and was able to swim in 2020 for the first time without protective measures to keep water from entering through the trach tube opening.
“It's been an amazing change for all of us," said Daniela.