Former athlete Vai Faamafoe had survived a near fatal case of COVID-19. Among the life-saving measures his doctors employed was a tracheostomy. Unfortunately, complications from the long-term effects of the disease caused further damage to his airway, requiring a second tracheostomy. The procedure resulted in a six-centimeter segment of scar tissue blocking 100% of his airway. This made him ultimately dependent on the tracheostomy tube and left him unable to pass air through the vocal cords to speak.

Fortunately, he found an exceptional partner in Karla O’Dell, MD, a laryngologist with the USC Caruso Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery and co-founder of the department’s USC Airway Intervention and Reconstruction Center.

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