South Georgia teen recovering after rare lung surgery

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SAINT MARYS, Ga. - eTradeWire -- Amanda Crane will never forget Halloween 2019. When her son, Stephen Cunningham, woke up that morning, he was experiencing shortness of breath and chest pains.

Stephen, 15, has been through something many adults will never experience – an unexpected diagnosis and life-changing surgery at Wolfson Children's Hospital of Jacksonville.

A sophomore at Camden County High School, Stephen is tall and thin. He is an excellent student who has a dry sense of humor and enjoys playing computer games.

On October 31, 2019, Stephen was taken to the Emergency Care Center at Southeast Georgia Health System's Brunswick campus. A chest X-ray confirmed that Stephen had suffered spontaneous pneumothorax, which is the sudden onset of a collapsed lung without any apparent cause, such as a traumatic injury or known lung disease.

The medical team, led by Damon Brantley, MD, chief of Surgery at Southeast Georgia Health System's Camden Campus, recommended placing a chest tube in Stephen to help release the air that had collected around the lung.

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Amanda Crane consulted with Dr. Brantley, who recommended that Stephen be transferred to Wolfson Children's Hospital of Jacksonville for specialized pediatric cardiology care.

Once at Wolfson Children's, Amanda and Stephen saw Michael Shillingford, MD, chief of Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgery at Wolfson Children's Hospital and faculty member of UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, and pediatric cardiovascular surgeon Harma Turbendian, MD. Wolfson Children's Hospital is a member of the UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh's Heart Institute network, providing specialized pediatric cardiac care for children in North Florida, South Georgia and beyond.

"Stephen exemplifies the outstanding working relationship between Southeast Georgia Health System and Wolfson Children's Hospital," said Dr. Shillingford. "Our colleagues identified specific treatment needs best served by pediatric heart specialists at Wolfson Children's in Jacksonville, and we worked together to get him to Jacksonville to receive the care he needed."

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After examinations, testing and monitoring, Dr. Shillingford and Dr. Turbendian recommended surgery to remove a small portion of Stephen's lung. The operation was performed using video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS).

"The goal of Stephen's surgery was to remove the top portion of his lung that had blebs that were responsible for the air leak, and to ablate the pleural space, or lining of his chest, to minimize the risk of his lung collapsing again," said Dr. Turbendian.

After surgery, Stephen spent two days in the Cardiovascular ICU at Wolfson Children's before he was discharged. He continues to receive follow-up care with his Camden County pediatrician.

"I am grateful Stephen received exceptional medical and surgical care at Wolfson Children's Hospital," Amanda said. "The level of patient care and concern demonstrated by the entire medical team at Wolfson Children's is unlike anything I have ever seen or experienced."

Source: Wolfson Children's Hospital
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