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Unique medical operation brings little girl her voice back

A pioneering medical procedure has given a ten-year-old Russian girl her voice back after she spent years in silence. The girl was left unable to speak when she ended up in a road accident.

In 2004, then five years old, Yulia Moiseenko was seriously injured when she was hit by a drunk driver. Yulia suffered tracheal stenosis – a block in her tracheal airway. A breathing tube was forced into her throat, but this left her without her voice.

“Her head suffered the most, with ruptures and bone fragmentation. She was unconscious for a long time in a hospital, breathing through a tube,” Yulia's father Igor says.

For years Yulia had to use a pen and paper to communicate, and concealed her breathing tube with bright colored scarves. However, a doctor, using a never tried before procedure, has given the little girl her voice back.

Dr Igor Kirgizov took a piece of cartilage from Yulia's ribs and placed it over the damaged area of her trachea.

“Her parents were looking for someone to operate on her. Many clinics refused to operate because of the great risks,” Dr Kirgizov says.

This technique is normally carried out in two stages, but this time one was all it took.

“We inserted the cartilage implant without the tracheotomy tube. The key risk was that the cartilage might have moved inside the tracheal orifice during unassisted breathing and the child could simply have choked. We took our chance and now the cartilage is implanted, and the problem is solved,” the doctor explains.

The medical team was delighted with the success of the surgery.

After the surgery, Yulia spent some time in intensive care. She breathed through a tube for five days. When she finally awoke, she began to talk. At first, her father did not even realize his daughter was speaking as he had not heard her voice in so many years.

“I wish the doctors luck and happiness. We are very grateful,” says Yulia's father.

The innovative surgery was of interest around the world and was shown live on the live on the Internet.

With the use of the state-of-the-art surgical equipment, Dr Kirgizov was able to broadcast his operation to surgeons around the world. The equipment he used is one of just 20 sets worldwide, three of which are in Russia.

Dr Kirgizov said it was his team and clinical funding for the modern medical equipment he used to perform the surgery that allowed the little girl to talk again.

“Much of the efficiency of the surgery is owed to this equipment. Had it not been for these machines, we would not have been able to perform this operation in one stage,” the doctor said.

Now the doctors hope that more children’s lives, like Yulia's, can be changed in the future.