If he could, 13-year-old Daniel Eduardo Rayas would tell you all he's ever wanted was to be able to speak.
Due to an accident 10 years ago, the boy underwent a tracheotomy in Guadalajara, Mexico. Doctors there made an opening in the trachea (windpipe) and inserted a tube to maintain effective breathing.Unfortunately, the doctors left the tube in the child's trachea longer than necessary and as a result he developed a web of scarring in the area.
On Tuesday, however, doctors at St. Mark's Hospital removed a plastic piece of tubing from his left bronchia that had dislodged from the trachia and had become displaced. They also performed microscopic laser surgery to excise the web of scaring from the boy's windpipe.
"Our goal is to help Daniel breathe on his own and regain his speech," said Dr. Jerry Sonkens, a head and neck surgeon at St. Mark's Hospital, who performed Daniel's surgery with surgeons Steven Grey, Primary Children's Hospital, and Kelly Stoker, University of Utah Hospital.
"This was a unique opportunity to help this young man who, without the aid of recent advances in laser surgery, may have had to live his entire life without the benefit of being able to talk and breathe normally or engage in normal physical activities such as swimming," Sonkens said.
Daniel and five other patients, also from Guadalajara, will spend the next three weeks in Salt Lake City to have medical experts treat and cure their difficult and expensive health conditions.
The project, which will cost more than $100,000, was coordinated by Dr. William McCaa, a physician at St. Mark's Hospital, in cooperation with representatives from the Foothill and Holladay Rotary clubs and the hospital administration.
"I have many things to be thankful for," said Maria Rayas, Daniel's mother. "We didn't have the surgical equipment in Mexico to perform this type of rare surgery."
Through his mother, Daniel said he dreams of attending school and talking to his brother and sister.
"Daniel is very happy," Rayas said. "Daniel is happy because he is being treated by these angels, these doctors. They were sent to us by the Lord . . . I'm full of hope for my son's life."
Ruben Pulido, 48, who walks with a cane, has polio in his left leg and was scheduled to undergo a total hip replacement in his right leg Wednesday.
"This is the best service and the best medical attention I've ever received," Pulido said. "This is almost like getting my life back again. It's a tremendous blessing. This is the solution to the worst problem of my life."
The other patients are Jose Negrete, 61, who will have his hip replaced; Rita Gonzalez, 37, who will undergo heart valve surgery; and Arturo Mora, 34, whose skull will be reconstructed to protect her brain.
Engracia Ramos, 37, needs an aortic valve replacement, but physicians haven't determined whether they will perform the surgery.