Dr. Ghanem removed the voice box, a portion of the esophagus and trachea with the help of Dr. Hammoud, who removed a portion of the collar bone and sternum to access the area through the chest.
This is very unusual and challenging procedure to perform; reconstruction of the trachea and esophagus is not typically done through the chest cavity.
To rebuild John’s trachea and esophagus, Dr. Momin harvested skin tissue and blood vessels from the thigh. The blood vessels were connected in the neck through an intricate procedure, and muscle from the thigh was used to rebuild the other structures in the neck, which was then covered with a skin graft.
During recovery from the surgery, John saw pulmonologist Javier Diaz-Mendoza, M.D. Dr. Diaz-Mendoza was tasked with finding the appropriate tracheostomy tube for John since the one he had did not fit correctly. He recommended two different customized tracheostomy tubes and was finally able to find one that fit and was comfortable.
After surgery, John was on a feeding tube and could not eat solid food for a six months. He had a few complications which lead to an additional four months of being on-and-off the feeding tube. He has fortunately been free of the feeding tube since July 2018 – and is grateful for that!
“We attempted chemotherapy but the treatment was harsh and it opened the esophagus back up,” Carol explained.
Since John had radiation prior to surgery this is no longer an option for treating John’s cancer.
There is still a small tumor that had metastasized on the lung, away from the original tumor. John is undergoing surveillance of that with Ding Wang, M.D., a medical oncologist.
Grateful for the team at the Henry Ford Cancer Institute
John uses an electrolarynx to help him speak since his larynx (voice box) was removed in the surgery. Carol is often translating for John, helping him communicate with others. They are thrilled that friends and family are starting to get used to the trach, and can understand John without Carol’s help. “It helps to watch his lips as he speaks,” she says.
Carol gives a heartfelt recap of what the team at Henry Ford means to them:
“It has been a long journey and John has been through a lot. We are so thankful for the many doctors and health professionals who have brought John this far. Without them, he would have already been gone.
He now gets the pleasure of seeing his nephew and godson graduate from high school this year. He can play trains with his other little godson, Elias, which has brought him so much joy. And, he will have the privilege of watching Carol’s daughter, Jill, walk down the aisle in June.
Having just returned from Germany in May of 2017, right before learning that his cancer had returned, Carol and John would love to travel there again someday.
When asked what has got them through this diagnosis, they point to their strong faith. “Faith has carried us through and helped us put it in God’s hands. God has put the right people in our paths. No matter the outcome we still know he is walking with us to help carry us through.”
John continues to follow-up with Dr. Ghanem, Dr. Mendoza, and Dr. Wang., along with his local physicians in Flint.