Honduran teen’s life saved through miracle surgery at North Shore/LIJ

Photo courtesy of North Shore/LIJ

Talented surgeons at Cohen Children’s Medical Center helped save the life of a teenager from Honduras left with a broken windpipe from a horse-riding accident.

“My life is a miracle and that’s a fact,” said Adrian Ehrler, the 15-year-old who survived the miracle surgery at the hospital, located on the grounds of the Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park.

Ehrler sustained a traumatic brain injury in the near-fatal accident in his native Honduras on July 16. Doctors at the local hospital inserted a breathing tube to save his life, but the tube was too large, leaving his windpipe scarred and his breathing compromised. Seeing how her son was suffering and in need of help, his mother Mirabel made a phone call to her sister Nancy, who lives in Woodside.

“Aunt Nancy is an FDNY paramedic who told us to come to New York,” the grateful teen said.

Upon his arrival on Aug. 15, Adrian was in critical condition. Breathing had become incredibly difficult and his health worsened, but the young, spiritual boy had a vision.

“I saw a beautiful angel,” Adrian remembers. “He pointed at me and told me that it wasn’t my time yet.”

A few days after arriving to New York, Adrian was in distress. His mother dialed 911 and he was rushed to the Emergency Department at Cohen Children’s Medical Center. Dr. Lee Smith of the hospital’s Division of Pediatric Otolaryngology was called in to evaluate the teen and delivered the news: Adrian was struggling to breathe through an opening of less than 1/8 of an inch.

“The difficulty with all this is that we have to make sure that the voice box remains unaffected,” Smith said. “If there is damage in any way, a patient like Adrian might lose the ability to speak.”

The next day, Smith and Dr. David Zeltsman, the hospital’s chief of thoracic surgery, performed a tracheal resection and reconstruction. The complex, 3-hour surgery was ultimately successful.

Three months later, Adrian publicly showed last week his appreciation to the surgeons who saved his life, men he calls his “heroes.” Because of their medical skill and meticulous care, the teen has the ability to breathe, eat and walk on his own, an outcome previously thought to be impossible.

The teen will stay at the center for the remainder of the year for observation.

“What I have learned from this is that there is a plan for all of us,” Adrian said. “I know that one day, I will return home and ride horses again. All of this is a miracle.”

More from Around New York