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Groundbreaking Surgery Gives Toddler New Windpipe

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Hannah Warren (Credit: Children's Hospital of Illinois)

Hannah Warren (Credit: Children’s Hospital of Illinois)

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Updated 04/30/13 – 5:48 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — A toddler has a new chance at life, thanks to groundbreaking surgery, performed a few weeks ago at an Illinois hospital.

WBBM Newsradio’s Regine Schlesinger reports, 2-year-old Hannah Warren was born without a windpipe, a very rare condition that’s almost always fatal.

Hannah couldn’t eat or speak and could breathe only through a tube inserted in her mouth.

Three weeks ago, working with a pioneering doctor from Sweden, surgeons at Children’s Hospital of Illinois in Peoria were able to construct and implant a windpipe, made from plastic fibers and Hannah’s own stem cells.

“It’s an incredible miracle,” said surgeon Mark Holterman. “She really should be able to be a fairly normal child.”

Her father, Darryl Warren, said, “We’re extremely blessed and humbled by it.”

She’d spent every day of her life in the hospital. Holterman said the first-of-its-kind surgery has given her a new life.

“She has a chance to go home. She has a chance to breathe through a tracheostomy in her neck, instead of having a tube out of her mouth and she won’t have to worry about saliva going down her lungs.”

Dr. Holterman says it’s a groundbreaking new area of medicine that offers other patients the hope of getting new bioengineered organs.

“This is a new era in medicine. Obviously, it’s in the early stages. This is a significant advancement.”

Doctors said, with the progress Hannah is making, she should be able to join her parents and sister, Dana, at home for the first time very soon.

“We waited two days to bring Dana home, like most parents do with a healthy child, and it’s been — well, I havent’ counted them — but it will be over 1,000 days to finally get Hannah home,” her father Darryl Warren said.

Doctors said it’s possible Hannah will need a new windpipe in about five years, but for now the family is happier than ever. Hannah will son start working with a speech therapist to learn how to talk.

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