A 14-month-old twin whose rare condition prevents him from eating, drinking, crying, and swallowing is recovering in a US hospital after finally receiving the lifesaving operation his parents had been praying for.
Sergio O’Connor was born in Dublin with tracheo-oesophageal fistula, a digestive disorder that left him without a complete oesophagus. Since birth he has had to be constantly monitored to prevent him choking on his saliva.
Last Friday, surgeons at Boston Children’s Hospital successfully rejoined both ends of his incomplete oesophagus in a six-and-a-half hour operation.
The operation, Sergio’s third in the past month, is expected to transform his life, as up to now he has been on life-support machines and had to be fed through a tube.
The lifesaving surgery marked the final part of a revolutionary procedure that he has spent the past month undergoing in Boston, in an induced coma to stimulate the growth of his oesophagus.
Sergio had a successful operation that reduced the 5cm gap between the ends of his oesophagus to just 1cm. However, a subsequent procedure less than 10 days ago to complete the procedure was deemed too risky to complete. Worried doctors decided his oesophagus needed more time to grow.
Sergio’s progress since then had been so good that surgeons felt confident the gap between his upper and lower oesophagal pouch was now small enough for them to successfully operate on him a final time.
Last Friday afternoon, parents Donal and Rosa O’Connor, whose other twin son is called Tadgh, spoke of their relief.
Donal, from Donnycarney, said: "Sergio went for his surgery at 7.30am. The surgeons explained beforehand that they were confident that today was the day they could reconnect his oesophagus.
"They were quite optimistic in achieving this goal, based on Sergio’s great response to the treatment so far.
"Dr Jennings rang after the surgery at 2pm and delivered the news that we’ve been praying for — Sergio’s oesophagus is now complete. The operation went very smoothly with no real complications. He was back in his room ahead of schedule and looking good."
Donal, who has been at Sergio’s bedside in Boston for the past month, can finally start looking forward to being reunited with his family back in Dublin. Speaking after the surgery, he said his son would need time to recover.
"Sergio is recovering well from yesterday’s big operation. Sometimes his heart rate can go a bit high for short periods of time. This is due to the fact that he requires frequent suctioning of his trachea.
"Now is the time for Sergio to rest so that his new oesophagus is given the chance to heal and grow stronger."
Ellie Madden, another Dublin twin with the same condition, had previously been treated in Boston by the same surgical team.
Since then she has been able to enjoy her first meal and use her voice for the first time.