MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WHDH) – Doctors at a children’s hospital in Tennessee have successfully reconstructed a voice box for the first time in history.

Two-year-old Cooper Kilburn, of Tennessee, was born with his voice box and windpipe blocked.

Babies with this diagnosis have no way of breathing or speaking.

Dr. Jerome Thompson, an otolaryngologist at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, says, “The mortality rate’s easily high 90 percent for this diagnosis, possibly even higher.”

The diagnosis was made when Cooper’s mom was 17 weeks pregnant. She was in a car crash and an ultrasound revealed something was wrong with baby cooper.

“If it hadn’t been recognized on ultrasound because of that freak accident, and if you’re religious, that accident is what brought all of this about,” Thompson said. “Otherwise, when Cooper was born, he was going to die.”

Cooper’s parents were not going to let their son die.

Cooper’s mom Brooke Kilburn said, “We had fetal surgery at 22 weeks so Cooper would’ve just eventually had his first ultra a week or two prior to that and it would’ve been too late.”

The first surgery was not fully successful so doctors implanted a breathing tube, or trach in Cooper’s throat and gave him a ventilator. He was still at risk.

Cooper’s dad Brad Kilburn said, “The mortality rate of trach-dependent patients tends to be hight.”

Two years later they tried again using parts of Cooper’s ribs and doctors were able to create a voice box and airway for him.

“I’d say my whole career has been preparing me for this,” Thompson said.

Five months later Cooper is making noise and only using his ventilator at night.

“One day Cooper is going to be telling this and we’re not going to have to,” his mom said.

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