Amy Bieber and her son, Jack, first met Seth Pransky, M.D., after being referred to the Ear, Nose & Throat program for breathing problems.
Jack, then 14 months old, had been transported to Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego by helicopter because he was having trouble breathing; he had contracted a respiratory infection and was unable to clear the mucous from his lungs. Prior to arriving at the Hospital, Jack was choking; he had also experienced a choking episode a month earlier.
After the virus cleared Jack’s system, Amy took him to see Dr. Pransky, chief of the Division of Otolaryngology (ENT), in his Murrieta office. Jack was leery of strangers – he wouldn’t even let his aunts and uncles hold him – but Dr. Pransky had a special way with him. “This man is a toddler whisperer,” Amy says. “At the appointment, Jack was sitting in Dr. Pransky’s lap.”
Within 5 minutes of meeting Jack, whose breathing was quite loud, Dr. Pransky knew something was very wrong. (Other doctors had said they were not concerned about Jack’s noisy breathing.) He immediately ordered a bronchoscopy, a procedure that examines the airways and lungs, and performed it the next day, wearing his signature Batman scrub cap. What the procedure discovered was something Amy never suspected, but she was relieved to finally know the cause of her son’s choking.
“Marked compression of the trachea was found caused by a vascular ring,” Dr. Pransky says. “This required immediate surgical correction.”
Dr. Pransky explained that Jack had a double aortic arch, a heart defect in which babies are born with two vessels of the aorta instead of one. These two branches form a vascular ring around and compress the windpipe (trachea) and esophagus, which can lead to trouble breathing and swallowing. Surgery performed at Rady Children’s (by members of the Cardiovascular division) fixed the defect, but Jack’s trachea was still 80 percent obstructed.
As a result, Jack’s food required special attention, and every meal became a nerve-wracking event. Amy tried to feed her son purees or tiny morsels, but Jack shunned them, screaming for bigger bites.
One evening, Amy and her husband had the scare of their life. While Brandon was feeding their two other sons, twins Max and Brian, Jack started choking. Panicked, Brandon pulled Jack from his chair and began pounding on his back, as he had learned to do in CPR class. But Jack was not responding. Brandon ran out the door screaming with Jack blue and limp in his arms. When Amy arrived home, she saw Brandon, on his knees with his head on the grass, lying next to Jack. Her heart was in her throat, and she was shaking. Fortunately, Jack was breathing; he was okay. A nurse who lived across the street had performed CPR – and saved him.
Jack had more choking episodes, which landed him in the Emergency Department near his home four times and at Rady Children’s twice, but as time went on, his trachea expanded to normal size and the choking finally stopped. Now almost 3, he can take those big bites and gobbles down huge pieces of chicken and broccoli.
“Jack has fortunately done well and has grown into a thriving toddler that keeps his mom quite busy,” Dr. Pransky says.
Amy is grateful for the care Jack received at Rady Children’s and credits Dr. Pransky with starting the chain of events that has made him happy and healthy.
“Thank God someone realized that there was something wrong,” she says. “He was amazing.”
Published Sept. 19, 2016