Doctor saves boys life, then restores his ability to speak

A New Jersey family is counting their blessings after they say a very special doctor at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia saved their son's life. Not once, but twice.

Shawn Friedman is your typical little boy, active, energetic, and full of life.

"I'm five and a half and my favorite thing to do is bike riding," Shawn tells FOX 29's Dawn Timmeney.

Shawn also loves baseball, soccer, and karate. You name it, Shawn plays it. To say he keeps his mom and dad on their toes would be an understatement.

But Danielle and Jordan Friedman wouldn't have it any other way.

Shawn had quite a rough entrance into the world. He was born premature on October 12th, 2010, at just 23 weeks.

"He was one pound three ounces when he was born and he spent 111 days in the NICU at St. Barnabus Hospital in New Jersey," Shawn's mom Danielle explained.

The Friedman's were thrilled to finally take Shawn home at the end of January of 2011.

But then in June, they noticed something just wasn't right with their little miracle baby. He wasn't eating and wasn't gaining weight.

"You could hear him constantly breathing and then he was turning blue also, on occasion, so you could see the struggles," Danielle explained.

After several appointments with ear nose and throat doctors the family had very few answers.

The Friedman's were referred to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and Dr. Karen Zur.

"Dr. Zur took one look at him and admitted him," Danielle recalled.

The next day Shawn was having emergency surgery to have a cyst removed.

"It was a large cyst. It's called a subglottic cyst and it was completely obstructing his airway, so he really didn't have much space to breathe through," Dr. Zur explained.

"By Sunday, before we left, he was chugging a bottle, chugging a bottle," Danielle said.

All was well for the little guy, but Dr. Zur did notice during surgery that Shawn had a paralyzed vocal cord.

She continued to follow him, and over time it became a problem.

"His voice was quieter, raspy, hard to be heard in an environment that wasn't quiet and it was starting to impact him, starting to impact his socialization," Dr Zur explained.

His mom and dad worried that Shawn would have difficulty in school, that he'd be overlook by his teachers because he was so soft spoken, or that he might even be bullied.

All of these were legitimate concerns.

"A lot of the kids have a lot of issues with their voice we don't think about related to just being embarrassed, or not being heard, or sounding different," Dr. Zur

So, at three-years-old, Dr. Zur performed an innovative and delicate surgery called laryngeal reinnervation, also known as nerve rewiring.

Dr. Zur took a strong nerve, supplying a muscle in Shawn's neck, and attached it to the weaker nerve in his voice box, to restore his voice.

So how did his parent's react when they heard that voice.

"I beamed with pride because I knew my son was now able to be like all the other kids," Shawn's dad Jordan recalled .

It takes anywhere from 3 to 20 months for children to typically see the full results of the procedure.

Dr. Zur is continuing to check Shawn's progress all the way.

The Friedman's are absolutely thrilled with the outcome.

"He has no fear of raising his hand, talking, speaking out," Danielle said.

"To be able to hear your son from all the way at the Top of the steps, yelling Dad come here, that's great," Jordan added.

Shawn is also very aware of just how special how Dr. Zur is.

"She fixed me. She put the tubes in and then she took them out and I was feeling much better," Shawn said.

"What she was able to do for us, not one, but twice is just amazing," Danielle said of Dr. Zur.

Shawn is now good to go. No more follow up visits to chop.

He starts kindergarten in a couple weeks, and is feeling the full benefits of his surgery, as a little boy with a big voice that teachers will have no problem hearing.