A baby girl has undergone life-saving surgery 35 years after her dad was born with the same extremely rare digestive condition.
Richard Franklin, 35, was born without part of his oesophagus, the pipe linking his mouth to his stomach.
The rare condition, Tracheo-Oesophageal Fistula (TOF) and Oesophageal Atresia (OA), means babies cannot swallow and it can be fatal without surgical intervention.
It affects just one in 5,000 babies but Richard’s daughter Robyn was born with the identical condition.
Days after being born last November, Robyn underwent surgery to join the oesophagus to the trachea.
Both father and daughter both had the surgery at Birmingham Children’s Hospital although the techniques used were both very different.
For Richard, from Birmingham, surgeons opened up his chest by cutting between the ribs to repair the oesophagus.
Although it was life-saving it meant he was left with a large scar across his torso.
He also needed regular dilatations where a balloon is placed in the oesophagus under general anaesthetic and inflated to stretch the scar tissue.
Bus driver Richard, whose twin brother also had the same operation, said: “After the procedure we needed numerous dilations growing up as well as additional surgeries.
“We were told at the time not only how rare this condition was but how rare it was for myself and my twin brother to survive.”
For baby Robyn, surgeons used a pioneering new technique using state-of-the-art thoracoscopic equipment – known as keyhole surgery.
Surgeons were able to rebuild Robyn’s oesophagus by operating in a space around the size of a matchbox between the heart and lungs using tiny instruments just 3mm in size.
The method means patients usually recover faster, feed quicker and are not left with major scarring and Robyn was able to feed by mouth after just 12 days.
The operation took six hours and required a team of surgeon’s, anaesthetists, and theatre practitioners as well as support from the neonatal unit, intensive care and
nurses on the neonatal surgical wards.
Over the 12 days Robyn spent in hospital around 50 doctors, nurses are professionals were directly involved in her care.
Robin added: “Having gone through all this growing up I had this guilt and responsibility, it was traumatising not just for me but for my parents to also relive it.
“However, this new technique has been life-changing for Robyn.
“The surgical team and the nurses on Neonatal Surgical Ward who cared for with Robyn were absolutely incredible.
“It has been quite the whirlwind with how quick she has recovered and been able to come home.”
Robin and his wife Hannah only discovered their daughter had inherited the same condition from her dad just hours after she was born.
Hannah said: “I always knew there was a chance Robyn may have a similar condition to Richard so when we found out a few hours after she was born, we were obviously shocked but in a way we had almost prepared ourselves.
“She was quickly transferred to Birmingham Children’s Hospital with Richard by her side while I recovered.
“The care she has received has just been amazing.”
Suren Arul, the Consultant Paediatric Surgeon who treated Robyn with surgeon Giampiero Sccorso, said: “Over the last 35 years doctors around the world have striven to improve the outcomes of surgery on these tiny babies this rare condition – we only see around two or three each year.
“We’re grateful to have the latest technology at our fingertips to provide the best care to our patients.
“To know Robyn can grow up normally having had such major surgery, but with no scars, is a wonderful thing.”