Life has been full of surprises for Karla and Joshua Valliere for the past year or so.
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For starters, the San Diego, California couple found out at Karla’s 20-week ultrasound that she was carrying not one baby, but two! Both girls appeared to be healthy in prenatal tests, and the family was thrilled to welcome identical twins Charlotte and Olivia in December 2021.
Charlotte was born with only one lung, and for about six weeks she seemed fine at home. But in January, she suddenly developed a respiratory infection and was admitted to the hospital having trouble breathing. Doctors at Rady Children’s Hospital diagnosed her with tracheal stenosis and complete tracheal rings. This birth difference narrows her trachea and makes airflow difficult. There was also a blood vessel wrapped around her trachea, which further restricted her airway.
Chief of the Pediatric Otolaryngology Division Dr. Matthew Brigger called Charlotte’s situation “fairly rare.” He knew she’d need surgery to repair her tracheal anomalies, but it would be risky.
“Initially I [told the parents], ‘Well, if we can get through surgery, I’m gonna give her 50-50,” Dr. Brigger explained. “[But] I’m thinking more 20% of getting through surgery at the time, just knowing how much that we had to go through.”
As the family waited for Charlotte to grow big enough for surgery, they noticed a true fighting spirit emerging in the infant’s personality. Her parents found strength in her resilience, not to mention her infectious smile!
“The thing that I think that I believe got us through was her,” said Karla. “She never gave any sign of weakness.”
Charlotte proved what a fighter she is by making a full recovery from her surgery! Doctors were able to free up her trachea to allow her to breathe freely, and they don’t think she’ll ever need a second lung. In fact, Dr. Brigger says she is cleared to lead a long, healthy life.
“Prognosis is very good,” he said. “She may not be running marathons in the future but she is Charlotte so it’s hard to say. She’s proved people wrong all along. I expect her to be able to live a good life.”
After 185 days in the hospital, Charlotte finally went home to join her twin sister on August 1st. Incredibly, her hair turned red as she fought for her life — a true testament to her “fiery” personality!
“I’m so grateful,” Karla said. “I’m so amazed by her. I’m so thankful for all the medical team here. I’m just so proud, I just love her so much.”
Welcome home, Charlotte! We can’t wait to see what she accomplishes in her life. With that kind of fighting spirit, we sure know there’s nothing she can’t do.
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