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Surgeons use 4-year-old’s rib to rebuild his throat

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 (Kathy Scoffield Photography)

A 4-year-old boy will have his throat rebuilt using part of his own rib by doctors at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Wednesday, according to a press release.

Emmett Rauch suffered severe injuries after he swallowed a button battery from a remote control on his first birthday. The quarter-sized battery became lodged in his throat, burning a hole in his esophagus which left him unable to breathe, eat or speak on his own.

"This will be a major step in helping little Emmett be a normal boy," Dr. Alessandro de Alarcon, director of the Center for Pediatric Voice Disorders at Cincinnati Children’s said in a press release. "If all goes well, the trach tube will be removed within the next year.  He wants to play soccer, so we think he'll be able to do that and play other sports if he wants, which is important for his childhood development."

Surgeons are hoping this will be the last major surgery for Emmett, who uses a tracheostomy to help him breathe.

Emmett regained the ability to eat through his mouth again after undergoing a procedure two years ago in which Cincinnati Children’s doctors used part of his colon to repair the hole in his esophagus.

"He's undergone extensive swallow therapy to learn how to eat," Emmett’s mother, Karla Rauch said in a press release. "He is a champ now. The esophagus surgery changed his and our lives."

Now, the rib-graft procedure will be used to restore function to the vocal cords by spreading them apart to create an airway passage.

"The airway surgery will be preparing him to go to mainstream school next year – kindergarten," said Karla. "He will start voice therapy where he will learn to adapt to his newly repaired vocal cords. It will also give him a safe and secure airway.”

Alarcon said that Emmett will still deal with many life-long issues as a result of his injury since his rebuilt throat will not function as effectively as a normal esophagus.  

In the meantime, Karla Rauch launched the website EmmettsFight.com to raise awareness about the dangers of button batteries.