Chinese doctor crossed more than 600 km to save newborn baby

A doctor in Shenzhen traveled 650 km to Fujian province to perform life-saving surgery on a newborn baby with vocal cord paralysis.

The baby boy, born on March 14 in Quanzhou in the eastern Chinese province of Fujian, was found to be unable to breathe on his own and had a weak voice. The boy was transferred to the intensive care unit and placed on a ventilator at Quanzhou Children’s Hospital.

The boy was diagnosed with congenital bilateral vocal cord paralysis. Doctors at the hospital said they could not treat them due to lack of expertise. This disorder causes breathing difficulties and can be life-threatening because the child cannot control the muscles that open and close the vocal cords due to nerve damage, causing the airways to narrow or become blocked.

Doctors performed surgery on a boy with vocal cord paralysis at Quanzhou Children's Hospital, Fujian province in April. Photo: SCMP.

Doctors performed surgery on a boy with vocal cord paralysis at Quanzhou Children’s Hospital, Fujian province in April. Photo: SCMP.

The boy’s father, Li Liangliang, searched the internet and learned that only doctors in Shanghai and Shenzhen have the expertise to treat children with this disorder. Due to Shanghai being locked down because of Covid-19, he called on medical staff in Shenzhen to help.

Hours after Li’s appeal was posted on social media, the Shenzhen Municipal Health Commission responded, saying it would send a pediatric hospital specialist to Quanzhou to perform the surgery.

Pan Hongguang and a colleague packed the surgical equipment for Quanzhou on April 5. Dr. Pan refused to follow the traditional method of tracheostomy, fearing that the baby would have speech difficulties later in life or have to wear a tracheal tube for life and risk recurrent infections.

Instead, he opted for minimally invasive surgery to reposition the vocal cords to make it easier for air to flow through them.

“It’s like pulling the hinges of the two doors back a little bit and fixing them to create more space for air flow, which in turn makes breathing easier,” explains Pan. “This surgery also does not affect the child’s ability to speak. If successful, there is no need for tracheostomy.”

The two-and-a-half-hour surgery ended on April 6. The baby recovered well and was able to breathe on his own on the fifth day after the operation. The boy was discharged from the hospital on April 18.

This story has been shared a lot on Chinese social media in recent days. After Pan returned to Shenzhen, Mr. Li asked a friend in that city to send a red silk banner with the words “excellent medical skills! Love warms the world” as a gift to express his love. grateful.

“We are really happy to be cherished by the patient’s family,” said Dr. Pan.

Thanh Tam (Theo SCMP)

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