It’s an exclusive group -- the Naked Neck Club.
Four-year-old Amauri is about to become a member.
The name Naked Neck Club was coined by caregivers and picked up by parents who are marking a major milestone in their child’s medical journey – the final removal of his or her tracheostomy tube.
Amauri has earned the right to celebrate. Born prematurely with a host of complications, he wasn't able to breathe on his own. His lungs and heart simply weren’t strong enough.
He would spend the first months of his life on a breathing tube in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Then, at 9 months old, a tracheostomy.
Up to now, that has been a big piece of Amauri’s story. But on this day, his story is changing.
Amauri’s parents are excited – and a little nervous.
“All we’ve known is to have that kind of breathing support,” says his mom, Brittany. “Whether it was a cannula, breathing tube, or trach. Now, for the first time, we won’t be depending on that.”
In the operating room, ear, nose and throat surgeon Rose Trowbridge, M.D., performs an endoscopy to evaluate Amauri’s windpipe. She wants to make sure there’s nothing preventing a successful trach removal. Everything checks out.
“He can look forward to a more normal childhood now,” Trowbridge says. “One that requires less medical care, less monitoring, less fear of a breathing emergency.”
But Trowbridge doesn’t actually remove the tracheostomy tube herself…. She likes to save that special milestone for the parents.
Back in the recovery area, Amauri is groggy, but ready for the moment.
“Are you ready to get your trach out, Amauri?” says his mom.
His parents position themselves on either side of their boy and support his back. They each grasp the trach tube, hand over hand.
They count together. “One, two, three!”
Out comes the trach – for the very last time. The end of a long chapter for this family. For Amauri, the beginning of more freedom – just to be a kid.
“It felt surreal; it felt wonderful,” says his father, Aja. “We were blessed to have it, but we’re even happier that we don’t need it anymore.”
That first night, Amauri’s mother doesn’t sleep. She stays up and watches her boy breathe. His little chest rising and falling peacefully. A most beautiful sight.
Rose Trowbridge, M.D., is on the medical staff of Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, Inc. (“JHACH”), but is an independent practitioner who is not an employee or agent of JHACH.