Naperville boy to undergo life-saving surgery for TEF at Boston Children’s Hospital

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“Really appreciate everyone reaching out and everyone giving us virtual hugs,” said Graham Brenna, father of Owen Brenna.

Two-year-old Owen Brenna from Naperville was admitted to Boston Children’s Hospital on Monday where he will receive a unique surgery.

“(Owen) was born with tracheoesophageal fistula, which is TEF,” said Graham Brenna. “So that means that there’s essentially a bridge between his esophagus and his trachea, so his food tube and his airway that shouldn’t be there. We found out right after he was born, and so at three days old, he had corrective surgery to connect his esophagus. It was completely disconnected when he was born, so then he could pass food down into his stomach.”

It’s estimated that TEF affects 1 in every 3,000 to 5,000 births in the United States. Approximately 50% of babies with TEF have another congenital condition, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

Owen has overcome battles with tethered cord syndrome and intestinal malrotation, but recently he’s been spending time in the hospital with pneumonia and recurring fistulas.

“Complications came about within the past year or so back in his esophagus area,” said Brenna. “His cough sounds pretty barky, he has some difficulty with liquids making their way over to his lungs.”

A potential solution at Boston Children’s Hospital

Graham and his wife Allyson found a potential comprehensive solution for Owen’s medical issues.

“(Owen) went through some procedures to try and cauterize the holes of the fistula, the bridgeway there,” said Graham Brenna. “We found Boston Children’s Hospital was kind of on the forefront of handling TEF kids, so they’ve done hundreds of these kinds of surgeries.”

Owen’s surgery is scheduled for Dec. 12. He is expected to make a full recovery and go on to live a normal life.

The Brennas will spend two to four weeks in Boston and will return with Owen for follow-up visits.

Graham said his three-year-old daughter Hailey has played a crucial role in keeping morale high in the Brenna family.

“They were 15 months apart,” said Graham Brenna. “But they’re so close and they both love each other a lot. You can just tell by watching them play together.”

GoFundMe set up for Owen

Graham’s sister Margot created a GoFundMe for the family’s medical expenses. 

“It’s really humbling,” said Graham Brenna. “It’s one of those things where, of course, I’ve been on the other end of it numerous times, where we’re praying for people that we know or where we’re donating money to help others. But it’s different being on the receiving end and so we’re really grateful for all the support. I know our friends and family are with us so that’s really great.” 

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