Age four may seem unusually late for a child to speak their first words, but Grant Hasse was born without vocal chords and has only recently undergone a procedure to let him talk. The Michigan boy’s story is an intersection of medical miracles and two rare conditions.
During the pregnancy, it was discovered that Hasse suffered from congenital high airway obstruction syndrome (CHAOS). This is when a fetus’s windpipe or larynx is blocked due to factors like narrowing of the airway or a missing area of the trachea. Although a fetus does not use their lungs to breathe in the womb, the blockage causes fluid buildup, heart strain and can lead to suffocation after birth. Hasse had an extreme form of CHAOS that to date only about 50 newborns have survived.
It took a cesarean section at just 27 weeks along with quick insertion of a breathing tube in order to save Hasse’s life. He weighed three pounds at birth and remained hospitalized and on a ventilator for several months afterwards. Doctors initially estimated his chance at survival at around five percent but he quickly proved them wrong.
During a follow-up operation a year later, it was discovered that his voice box was underdeveloped and that he had no vocal chords. As a newborn’s voice box can sometimes be damaged by breathing tubes, reconstructive surgery does exist for them. Tissue was taken from surrounding muscle and a graft was made from one of Hasse’s ribs to build a replacement voice box for the boy.
Hasse’s family received community support to help pay for the surgery and the medical costs. Their church congregation at St. Blase Parish held a benefit concert for the family and managed to raise several thousand dollars. A relative of the family also set up a GoFundMe campaign that managed to raise a little over $3,500.
The patient’s vocabulary currently consists of only a few dozen words, but he can say “mama”, “dada”, and “Peppa”, the name of a cartoon pig he enjoys. He currently takes speech therapy lessons to better develop his use of sounds and pronunciation. It may take longer than his peers, but it is currently believed that he will eventually develop full vocal abilities. The effects of the surgery mean that Hasse will always have a raspy voice, but that seems like a small price to pay compared to having no voice at all.
Sources for Today’s Article:
“CHAOS (Congenital High Airway Obstruction Syndrome),” UCSF Fetal Treatment Center web site, https://fetus.ucsfmedicalcenter.org/chaos, last accessed November 23, 2015.
Czarnik, E., “Church Rallies behind Baby Born without Vocal Cords,” C&G Newspapers web site, September 25, 2013; http://www.candgnews.com/news/church-rallies-behind-baby-born-without-vocal-cords.
Kennedy, J., “Baby Grant Hasse,” GoFundMe.com, https://www.gofundme.com/Baby-Grant-Hasse, last accessed November 23, 2015.
“Michigan Boy, 4, Talks for First Time with New Voice Box,” Fox News web site, November 23, 2015; http://www.foxnews.com/health/2015/11/23/michigan-boy-4-talks-for-first-time-with-new-voice-box.html.