Hannah Warren was born without a windpipe.
The 2-year-old toddler who hasn’t been able to breathe, eat, drink or swallow since birth, now has a trachea grown from her own stem cells, AP reports.
"All we have ever wanted since Hannah was born was to be able to bring her home and be a regular family,” Hannah's father, Darryl Warren, said in a statement from the Children's Hospital of Illinois, where the surgery was performed.
The Korean-Canadian toddler who lived in Seoul hospital, underwent a nine-hour operation in Peoria, Ill., on April 9. She is the youngest person to receive a bioengineered organ.
Hannah’s windpipe was made using a plastic half-inch diameter tube that was soaked in a stem cell solution taken from her bone marrow and incubated in a device called a bioreactor, the New York Times reports.
Since no donor tissue was used in the transplant, the chances of the new trachea being rejected by her immune system are slim.
Hannah experienced some complications after surgery, but is doing well, said Dr. Paolo Macchiarini, who developed the windpipe and led the surgery.
“She will go from being a virtual prisoner in a hospital bed to running around and playing with her sister and enjoying a normal life,” Macchiarini said in a statement about Hannah’s recovery.
Hannah’s congenital condition, tracheal agenesis, usually has a low survival rate. Doctors in South Korea told Hannah’s parents she was expected to die, AP reports.
“We didn’t want Hannah for just another couple of years,” Darryl Warren told the New York Times. “We wanted her for the rest of our lives.”
To ensure his daughter’s survival, Warren took to the Internet. He found Macchiarini, who had performed five other windpipe transplant surgeries using regenerative medicine. Warren shared his findings with other doctors who eventually collaborated with Macchiarini to perform the procedure in Peoria.
Before the operation, Hannah was fed using a mouth tube. After surgery, Macchiarini witnessed the toddler putting her lips together for the first time.
“It was beautiful,” he said.