Vocal cord surgery gives toddler with a rare condition a voice

Surgery gives toddler a voice
Surgery gives toddler a voice 01:50

Last Updated Nov 26, 2019 7:30 PM EST

You would never know it to look at Rio Farr today, but he's been through an awful lot in his 18 months of life. He almost died when he was born.

"He was making a face like he was crying but there was no noise coming out," said his father Patrick Farr. 

His airway was almost totally blocked. A team of nurses and doctors tried repeatedly to insert a breathing tube without success. While an emergency tracheotomy eventually stabilized Rio, a doctor had to tell his parents, Holly and Patrick, what their baby's severe condition meant.

"He drew like a little scale and it said mild, moderate and severe. And he was talking about brain damage," Holly Farr said.

Rio Farr Children's Hospital Los Angeles

A day later though, Rio somehow began to respond without detectable brain damage. He was moved to Children's Hospital Los Angeles and into the hands of Dr. Christian Hochstim.

"His vocal cords were completely fused and there was just a tiny hold in the back where he was able to breathe through," Hochstim said.

It's a condition that occurs in only one out of 10,000 births. Surgery successfully enlarged the airway, saved his life and gave Rio a voice.

Months later, the tube in his throat is gone, his breathing is great and his parents can hear him. For his family, even his cries now are a song of celebration.

  • Dean Reynolds
    Dean Reynolds

    Dean Reynolds is a CBS News National Correspondent based in Chicago.