Revolutionary medical device 'sucks the cough out of you'

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Thursday, November 3, 2016
Revolutionary medical device 'sucks the cough out of you'
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A new machine in use at Texas Children's Hospital stimulates lung function and boosts the immune system by forcing spinal muscular atrophy patients to cough.

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Crystal Somers got news that no parent ever wants to get: that her son's medical diagnosis could change their life forever.

"We're told he's not going to see his second birthday," she recalls. "At six months old, he was diagnosed with SMA."

"Spinal Muscular Atrophy is a condition where the nerves that go to the muscles degenerate, so it leaves a patient extremely weak," explains pediatric pulmonologist Dr. Harold Farber.

It affects the ability to walk, with limited hand movement and breathing issues. In years past, those diagnosed with SMA wouldn't live long - but that's changed.

SEE ALSO: Texas Children's welcomes first full-time therapy dog

"All of those pieces of equipment have saved his life more times than I can count," Crystal told us.

Cooper is now six years old and doing well, thanks to assisted breathing devices that have helped him along the way, including the cough assist machine.

"What this basically does is suck the cough out of you," Dr. Farber said. "It puts a big breath into the lungs, fully inflates the lungs, and then sucks the air out of the lungs -- because if you can't cough, you have much higher risks of pneumonia."

These assisted breathing devices have allowed Cooper to just be a kid and make friends with others his age.

"He's in first grade. He's doing awesome now. He's playing baseball for a special needs team. I just try to keep him active and not in a bubble," Crystal said.

Active indeed -- and mobile, thanks to his specialized wheelchair.

"It allows him independence, he can get around. He goes to school and drives himself around school," according to Crystal.

Crystal says she's quite hopeful about her son's future, despite the odds being stacked against him.

"There's so many things in the clinical trial that are coming down the pipeline that are working and for treatment. He's going to be around a while and I would hope that other parents have the same thing," Crystal said.