Leonardo Finds His Voice

Published on: 11/08/2021

Meet Leonardo, a lively 2-year-old, born with a both of his vocal cords fused, who recently discovered his voice for the first time!

Leonardo was a healthy newborn, who arrived at 40 weeks and one day via C-section. He remained healthy throughout his first 10 months of life, avoiding even the most common childhood ailments. Shortly before Leonardo’s first birthday, his family took a trip to visit relatives in Cuba. However, when Leonardo began to experience throat pain, fever, and difficulty breathing only two days into the trip, his mother and father, Yisell and Leo, decided to return home to Miami to seek help.

The family brought Leonardo to the Emergency Department at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital. He was then admitted to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit for 10 days for steroid treatment to help with his breathing, followed by another week in one of the medical units. When he was able to go home, Leonardo was referred to specialists, including a pediatric hematologist and a pulmonologist, both of whom could not find a reason for his difficulty breathing. When Leonardo’s problems persisted, the family took him to the Nicklaus Children’s Miami Lakes Outpatient Center where he was referred to a pediatric otolaryngologist or ENT who specializes in upper airway disorders.

Leonardo in outpatient center

Immediately, the worried parents scheduled an appointment with Dr. Brian Ho, pediatric otolaryngologist at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital who was able to determine that Leonardo was experiencing “stridor,” a harsh vibrating noise caused by an obstruction of the windpipe or larynx. Dr. Ho noted that Leonardo’s vocal cords were fused from birth, causing him difficulty breathing with any type of common cold and preventing the child from speaking. Fortunately, his condition was treatable and involved a surgery to separate his fused vocal cords into two healthy vocal cords. Leonardo needed to grow a bit before surgery, so he was monitored for several months until the team was able to successfully operate on him shortly after he turned two, to give him a new voice that his parents can enjoy and experience with him at all his future milestones.

Leonardo's vocal cords before surgery

Leonardo's vocal cords before surgery

Leonardo's vocal cords after surgery

Leonardo's vocal cords after surgery

Hearing my baby say ‘mama’ and ‘papa’ with his own voice for the first time after surgery was the most rewarding experience of them all,” said Yisell. “We are thankful, blessed and fortunate to have this level of care and experience available for our son right here in our community.” 

Today, Leonardo is a cheerful and explorative child who loves the playground and all things outdoors! He continues to visit Nicklaus Children’s Hospital for follow up care and hasn’t experienced any complications since his surgery.

Leonardo playing outdoors

If you or someone you know is experiencing breathing issues with their child and wants to be evaluated that you think might need surgery, please reach out to the department of otolaryngology and ask for the airway team at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital. 

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