He's spent his whole life in hospital. Now this 5-year-old will finally be able to breathe on his own

A Jamaican father heard his five-year-old son's voice for the first time after the boy received life-altering surgeries this fall at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.

Thanks to life-altering surgery, Kenrick Bogle is also learning to swallow his food for the first time

Before and after pictures of Kenrick Bogle, who traveled to Toronto from Jamaica for life-altering surgery at The Hospital for Sick Children. (Peter Bogle)

Peter Bogle heard his son's voice for the first time this fall after the boy received life-altering surgeries at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. 

Kenrick Bogle, 5, has spent his entire life in hospital, unable to breathe or eat on his own, and in need of surgeries he could not get in Kingston, Jamaica. CBC Toronto first covered the international effort to bring him to SickKids in January of 2017. 

But Kenrick's fate changed in September and October, when he received a pair of key surgeries, and his father heard his voice for the very first time.

"That was a good feeling to hear his first cry. It wasn't that vivid or loud, but you could hear a sound," his father said of his son.

Kenrick was born with tracheoesophageal fistula, an abnormal connection between the esophagus and the trachea.

That connection caused food and saliva to enter his windpipe and travel down into his lungs, causing chest infections.  

Doctors at Bustamante Hospital for Children in Kingston tried to correct the problem, but the infant also had esophageal atresia, which is a gap between the top of his esophagus and the bottom section connected to the stomach. 

Kenrick Bogle has spent his whole life in hospital in Kingston, Jamaica. (Peter Bogle)

There was yet another complication when when Kenrick was two weeks old.

After he stopped breathing, it was discovered that he also had a condition called tracheomalacia, which caused his trachea to collapse.

Looking back on those early days, Bogle said, "It was hard but I would have to be strong because his mother wasn't taking it that good," he said. 

Search for a surgical solution

The surgeries to correct these problems couldn't be done in Jamaica, so Kenrick remained in the intensive care unit for years while doctors looked to international hospitals for help. 

Throughout it all, his father said, "I was still trying to stay positive and just hoping that it wouldn't be a problem that can not be fixed but as time goes by I saw the difficultly in it."

Jamaican Health Minister Dr. Chris Tufton, Market Me Consulting and Toronto businessman Wes Hall worked together to bring attention to the boy's plight.

Hall also happened to be on the the board at SickKids Foundation. And together with the help of the SickKids Foundation tribute, the Jamaican Ministry of Health, donors and a public GoFundMe page, $400,000 U.S. was raised for Kenrick, according to hospital spokesperson Suzanne Gold.

The physicians and surgeons also agreed to waive their fees.

Peter Bogle with his son Kenrick, celebrating his 5th birthday during his stay at the The Hospital for Sick Children. (Peter Bogle )

In September, Kenrick arrived in Toronto with his father by his side and a team of doctors and nurses waiting for him.

"He is unable to stand. He's unable to talk — this little five year old has never had a lollipop because he's unable to eat, " said Dr. Peter Cox, the Clinical Director of the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit and Associate Chief of Critical Care Medicine at SickKids.

The first major operation took place on September 28, and required approximately ten hours, Dr. Agostino Pierro, the head of the Division of General and Thoracic Surgery, said.

"We managed to close the connection between the fistula, which is the connection between the trachea and the esophagus and bring the two ends of esophagus together, although this was quite under severe tension," he said.  

Dr. Agostino Pierro and Dr. Peter Cox were among a team of doctors and nurses that helped care for Kenrick over a two-month period this fall. (Paul Borkwood/CBC News)

The second major surgery was to widen Kenrick's trachea or windpipe, so it wouldn't collapse. That took place October 30th. 

"Our goal was to [get] him eventually feeding and breathing on his own, which are two fundamental things of anybody's life," said Dr. Pierro.

Road to recovery

With the tube once down his trachea now no longer there, Kenrick is finally learning how to swallow.

"I tell myself the day that he was extubated he was just born and he's learning to do these things," said his father.

And when it comes to breathing on his own, Kenrick only needs his oxygen supplemented for now, Dr. Cox said.

"I think we're so lucky to be able to take a kid like Kenrick and help him get back to where he should be," he said.   

His father says he is already well on his way becoming more mobile, learning to crawl and play like any other kid. 

"In the future from now, soon we'll try to catch up with the activities he should be doing at the age of five."

Bogle says he has also learned a lot while here, spending time with the nurses, learning how to care for his son with the hope of eventually taking him home. 

Father and son are returning to Jamaica this week, where Kenrick's ongoing care will continue at the hospital in Kingston. 

It could be a year or more before Kenrick is well enough to leave the hospital for good, according to Dr. Cox. 

And while his father is looking forward to that day, he's also looking forward to many more milestones to come. 

"Now I'm dreaming of the day that he'll say daddy," said Bogle. 

About the Author

Makda Ghebreslassie

CBC Toronto reporter

Makda is a CBC Video-Journalist, who from time to time fills in as TV news anchor and a newsreader on Here and Now and Fresh Air. She worked in newsrooms in Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie and Windsor before moving back home to Toronto. makda.ghebreslassie@cbc.ca