Own Rib Cartilage May Help Boy With Rare 'Suffocating' Disease Breathe Easy

The smile on Lewis Farrell's face hides the struggle he faces to take every breath.

But the Niddrie, Australia, 2-year-old is hoping a complex operation at the Royal Children's Hospital will soon bring a day when he can breathe easy and beat an extremely rare throat condition.

Last month, a team of surgeons used cartilage from Lewis' ribs to reconstruct his airways, which are so blocked it is as though he has to breathe through a narrow straw.

After 22 days in intensive care, Lewis was released from the hospital last week, but it won't be until Christmas when swelling clears that it will be known how successful the operation has been.

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Success will mean Lewis will finally be free of the tracheotomy he has needed for air since he was 3-months-old.

For his mother, Gabby Farrell, it will also bring an end to the constant battle she fights to stop her son suffocating.

Lewis sleeps in a bed near his parents, who monitor him around the clock.

"He is very sore and has a massive scar, but underneath it all he is an amazing child," Gabby Farrell said. "He looks healthy but at any minute it can change at the drop of a hat, so you have to carry all your emergency equipment at all times."

The chances of being born with a blockage as severe as Lewis's is estimated at one in 300,000.

His deformed trachea has a subglottic stenosis, or a membrane that blocks up to 90 percent of his airway.