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A Toddler’s Tale

Jack Woodward had difficulty doing what is second nature for most babies: eating and breathing normally. Diagnosed with multiple food allergies, the youngster also suffered from a chronic cough, asthma, reflux and frequent vomiting. At age 1, he refused to eat. His parents, Mark and Gisele, were understandably worried.

“We knew that something was terribly wrong, but every doctor Jack saw didn’t believe that our child had a serious problem,” explained Mrs. Woodward. “We documented his symptoms and his behavior but no one would listen. Mrs. Woodward brought the 19-month old child to the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary at the suggestion of Dr. Kenan Haver, a pediatric pulmonologist. “Dr. Haver was working with Dr. Christopher Hartnick at the new Pediatric Airway, Voice and Swallowing Center at the Mass. Eye and Ear,” she said. “And Dr. Hartnick thought Jack would be a perfect candidate for the Center.”

Dr. Stephen Hardy, a pediatric gastroenterologist, and Drs. Haver and Hartnick met with Mrs. Woodward and her son and arranged for several tests, including an MRI and an endoscopy, a procedure that allows the physician to view the airway, esophagus or stomach. They found that Jack had a laryngeal cleft, an abnormal connection between the airway and the food pipe that was affecting his eating and breathing. The welcome news was that the cleft was treatable by surgery. For the Woodwards, the diagnosis brought relief. “At last, we had answers,” she said. Jack is now, in his mother’s words, “a new kid and perfectly normal.” She is confident that her young son will continue to make strides, thanks to a mother’s instinct and an extraordinary team of caring medical professionals.