Tennessee child first to survive rare condition following unique surgery

Aug 7, 2019

Cooper Kilburn and his mother prior to surgery at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital in Memphis.
Credit Le Bonheur

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (OSBORNE) -- A first of its kind surgery has given a Tennessee boy the ability to breath and speak.


Doctors discovered by accident that Cooper Kilburn was developing in his mother’s womb without a larynx or voice box. Without an airway, the boy would have died at birth.


A medical team at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis performed the world’s first successful surgeries to construct an airway for Cooper. During a press conference, Dr. Jerome Thompson explained the first of those surgeries was performed during a partial cesarean section.

“We delivered Cooper onto the mother’s abdomen and down toward her legs, but keeping his torso, his abdomen and lower body still inside the womb to keep him warm.”

Doctors later built a voice box for Cooper from pieces of bone taken from his ribs.