Two-year-old, Jazz Antes, can now enjoy a simple activity that was off-limits to him for so long: bubble baths. Taking a bath can be something we take for granted, but for parents Lydisha and James, it was a huge milestone for their son.
“We wanted Jazz to experience some of the wonderful things about childhood, like baths, being in nature and playing in the dirt,” James says. “I can’t believe we are here today, at this point, when it seems like yesterday Jazz entered the world struggling to catch a breath.”
At the hospital in Guam where Jazz was born, doctors noticed the pediatric patient was having a hard time breathing and feeding but were unable to diagnose him. After a few weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), Jazz was sent home. At home, however, his mom noticed that it would take Jazz many hours to finish just a small amount of milk and that he was working all his muscles to breathe. After failing to gain weight, doctors diagnosed Jazz with a mysterious airway issue but didn’t fully understand what he was experiencing.
“As parents, we knew something was wrong with our son and we felt like we weren’t really getting all the answers,” Lydisha says. “And then one day when he was two months old, Jazz just stopped breathing. We called 911. He was so tiny that the team at the hospital near our home had a hard time intubating him. At that point, doctors told us that we had to make a tough decision to save his life. Jazz needed specialized care that he couldn’t receive there.”
Lydisha and James decided to take Jazz to the mainland United States, where he could get the best possible medical treatment for a pediatric airway disorder, and that was at Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego.
On March 23, 2021, when Jazz finally arrived at Rady Children’s, he was immediately taken to the intensive care unit and introduced to the care team. There, Matthew Brigger, MD, Chief of the Division of Otolaryngology at Rady Children’s and a Professor of Otolaryngology at UC San Diego School of Medicine, diagnosed Jazz with airway narrowing and failure to thrive. Jazz needed surgery to correct the problem with his airway that would help him breathe, called a tracheostomy. Jazz also received a gastrostomy tube, or G-tube, to help him feed and gain the weight he so desperately needed. His pediatric surgeries were a success and slowly but surely, Jazz began to gain weight and grow stronger.
“Jazz is truly a special child with amazing parents,” Dr. Brigger says. “His complexity, combined with their drive to get him in the bathtub, represents why the Center for Pediatric Aerodigestive Disorders and Airway Surgery exists.”
Dr. Brigger heads the Center for Pediatric Aerodigestive Disorders and Airway Surgery at Rady Children’s. The Center is a multidisciplinary team of health care experts from otolaryngology (ENT), pulmonary/respiratory medicine, gastroenterology, hepatology and nutrition, speech-language pathology and occupational therapy. The Center specializes in the evaluation, treatment and management of complex airway and feeding disorders. The team of experts has extensive experience in treating a wide range of pediatric aerodigestive disorders, including acquired and congenital airway stenosis, laryngeal clefts, tracheoesophageal fistulas, vascular rings, and other swallowing and breathing disorders. The Center offers comprehensive services for the growing needs of kids that have both breathing and feeding disorders, including surgery, speech therapy, occupational therapy, nutrition counseling, psychosocial support and more.
“Once Jazz began getting stronger, Dr. Brigger approached us and told us that we could possibly remove Jazz’s trach so that he could lead more of a normal life,” Lydisha said following his pediatric airway surgery. “Through airway reconstruction and by taking a rib graft, we could widen Jazz’s airway and help this little guy out. He wouldn’t have to live with a trach forever. We trusted the team and we wanted what was best for our son, and so we agreed.”
In April 2023, Dr. Brigger successfully removed the trach during the pediatric airway surgery. Jazz overcame his airway challenges and is now a healthy and happy little boy. Thanks to pediatric surgeries, Jazz is thriving at home with his family and always looks forward to splashing around in the bath. Jazz can now enjoy being a kid and experience everything he has missed out on without having airway troubles. Their journey has been long, but isn’t over yet. They now have a journey to finally go back home to Guam after being on the mainland for nearly 3 years.
“He is a reminder that even when things are tough, there is always hope,” James says. “I believe 100,000% that Rady Children’s is filled with angels. They gave me the strength to never give up hope because they never gave up on my son, and if there is one thing to say to the people coming from the Mariana Islands, it is that miracles happen here.”
To learn more about how the Center for Pediatric Aerodigestive Disorders and Airway Surgery is helping kids like Jazz with special procedures, visit rchsd.org/programs-services/aerodigestive-center.