Charlotte Valliere: ‘Fighter’ newborn with one lung and 20% chance of survival goes home after recovering
SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA: After a six-month stay at a San Diego hospital, a California girl, defying all odds, has returned home. The toddler was born with one functioning lung and doctors said her chances of survival were a mere 20 per cent. Karla and Joshua Valliere welcomed twins, Charlotte and Olivia, in December 2021. However, Charlotte was admitted to the Rady Children's Hospital in January with breathing issues and a respiratory infection.
The Vallieres were initially unsure of what was wrong. Charlotte was born with one lung, but she was healthy and had no postpartum complications. Olivia was also in good health.
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"Her one lung grew like 1.5 sizes, so it was compensating for the lack of the second one. So doctors did run all the studies. She was totally fine -- oxygenation, everything 100%, so we were cleared to go after four days in the hospital," Karla told Good Morning America. "It was six weeks at home -- total bliss. Everything was great ... and all of a sudden she started having breathing problems," she added.
On January 29, the Vallieres brought their daughter to Rady, where she was admitted and given an ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation machine). Charlotte was only six weeks old when she first saw Dr Matthew Brigger, chief of the pediatric otolaryngology division at Rady Children's Hospital. She would eventually be diagnosed with having complete tracheal rings and tracheal stenosis. This indicated that she had an abnormal narrowing of the trachea, or windpipe, and abnormal rings in her trachea, both of which were birth defects affecting her airway. A blood vessel was also encircling her trachea.
"This set of anomalies, with the single lung, with the way the aorta was wrapped around the trachea itself and the trachea being this narrow, is actually fairly rare. We knew that she had a critical airway that if anything were to progress, trying to keep her intubated, that was gonna potentially injure the airway and give us more difficulty in repairing it. So the ECMO was sort of a bridge to surgery," Brigger said.
Brigger and Charlotte's other doctors had to wait until the toddler was big enough to perform the major surgery because she and her twin had been delivered prematurely and Charlotte was, therefore, small for her age.
"Initially I [told the parents], 'Well, if we can get through surgery, I'm gonna give her 50-50.' But I'm thinking more 20% of getting through surgery at the time, just knowing how much that we had to go through," Brigger added. Despite the risks, Charlotte's surgery went well. "Charlotte is a fighter, so we were able to perform the surgery. She had a successful surgery " he went on to say.
The Vallieres claimed that they drew strength from their own daughter throughout Charlotte's complications, numerous surgeries, and treatment, as well as the months-long hospital stay and all its ups and downs. "The thing that I think that I believe got us through was her. She never gave any sign of weakness," the mom of two said.
Charlotte was finally released from the hospital on August 1 after 185 days, and her family was there to celebrate and take her home. "It was just a lot of emotions and it was just a roller coaster. But now we have them together, so it's worth it," Karla added.
Brigger stated that he did not believe Charlotte will ever require a second lung and that her future was promising. "Prognosis is very good. She may not be running marathons in the future but she is Charlotte so it's hard to say. I expect her to be able to live a good life," he said.