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Miracle Monday – Meet Stefani!

Stefani Swindle came to Children’s as a preemie with subglottic stenosis, a narrowing of the airway below the vocal cords and above the trachea. She spent the first year of her life at Children’s, and at the age of 6 months, was moved to the Special Care Unit.

Jennifer Swindle, a special care nurse at Children’s of Alabama, meets all sorts of children while on the job. But it was Stefani who stole her heart – and eventually took her last name.

When Stefanie became well enough to be discharged (though she still needed a tracheostomy tube until she and her airway were big enough to have reconstructive surgery), she didn’t have a family to take her home, which meant she was headed for a nursing home.

But after seven long months,
the Swindles received their foster license and were able to bring Stefani home. Prior to Stefani’s homecoming, the Swindles spent a week at Children’s learning how to take care of Stefani’s tracheostomy and G-tube. “Children’s prepared us well and supported us even after we brought her home,” Jennifer said. “I could call them any time and they helped with whatever we needed. It was scary to bring home a child on oxygen and a feeding tube, but they made sure we were prepared.”

When Stefani reached age 4 ½, she became eligible for a laryngotracheal reconstruction surgery to rebuild her airway, which would allow removal of the tracheostomy tube. “It was a lot to get to that point,” Jennifer said. “She underwent a lot of occupational therapy, had to get off of oxygen and had to learn to eat because she was fed through the G-tube until the age of 3. But with a lot of work and prayer, she made it there.”

Dr. Brian Kulbersh at Children’s performed the successful surgery and Stefani has thrived since. “She has been such a blessing to our family,” Jennifer said. “And Children’s was a blessing as well. It has been eye opening to me to be on the other side and know what it’s like to have a critically ill child. It has made me a better nurse.”