Team Eye and Ear–Meet Matt and Jillian!

Since the marathon is just around the corner, you will start meeting two team members each day this week!  Today, you will meet Matt Brigger and Jillian DeBusk!

brigger                 DeBusk

 Here’s some more information on our two generous and enthusiastic team members!


A pediatric otolaryngologist in the US Navy, Matt is returning to Team Eye and Ear for the third time and his ninth marathon. Matt was a fellow Mass. Eye and Ear in 2007-2009 and was thrilled to run the Boston Marathon last year with his close friends and former colleagues. He finished before the tragic bombings at the finish line and decided to run again as soon as he confirmed everyone he knew was safe. “The opportunity to raise funds with some of my close friends for a great cause at a great institution is unbelievable,” he explains. “While I was at Mass. Eye and Ear I witnessed the ‘anything is possible’ concept every day.” Matt has taken that idea of ‘anything is possible’ and applied it to his whole life. 


A special education teacher at the Carroll School, Jillian will be fulfilling a “bucket list” dream of completing the Boston Marathon. She is inspired by the work done at Mass. Eye and Ear and will be running to raise funds for Operation Airway. The Team Eye and Ear member is a fitness enthusiast who turned to running after a devastating skiing accident. Jillian says that nothing brings her quite as much joy as running along Commonwealth Avenue past the Johnny Kelley statue, ahead of target pace and trading smiles with fellow runners. The sport of running has empowered her to change the way she views herself and how her contributions can make a difference in the lives of others. 

Two more to come tomorrow!!

Team Eye and Ear–Meet Peggy!

As promised, we introduce the another member of the Operation Airway/MEEI team!  Meet Peggy Kelley!



Peggy is a veteran of our team, and here’s her message to you:


This will be my fifth year running the Boston Marathon with Team Eye and Ear. I work as a nurse in the operating room taking care of some of our smallest patients.  I’m fortunate to work with a great team of nurses, surgeons and anesthesia providers who care for children with disorders of the airway.  Together we traveled to Ecuador as part of Operation Airway where we worked with the medical community teaching them to care for these difficult airway patients. I’m excited to be part of Team Eye and Ear again this year especially after the terrible events of last year’s race. Together we will finish what we started!

Tomorrow we will introduce yet another Operation Airway–Team Eye and Ear member, so keep an eye out for it!

Team Eye and Ear–Meet Brittany!

As promised, we introduce the first member of the Operation Airway/MEEI team!  Meet Brittany Williams!


Brittany returns to Team Eye and Ear in 2014 for her second Boston marathon. Unable to continue past mile 25.8 last year, she is grateful for the opportunity to finish what she started in 2013. She will run alongside her brother, Patrick Williams, a new 2014 Team Eye and Ear member. Brittany explains, “The events that occurred that day helped us learn to cherish each day. Our relationships with family and friends have grown stronger and running continues to motivate us.” Brittany, a pediatric ENT nurse at Mass. Eye and Ear, cares for children with airway disorders. She will be raising funds for Operation Airway, which consists of a group of specialists who travel to Ecuador. These physicians, nurses, anesthesiologists and others, perform life-changing airway reconstructive surgery and postoperative care to children who cannot breath or speak on their own.

Come back tomorrow to meet another wonderful member of our team!!

Time for the Marathon!

It’s that time of year again!  The Boston Marathon will take place on April 21, 2014.  The Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary has been raising money through participation in the marathon for the past 8 years, and this year is no exception!  With over 100 people from MEEI participating, this year will remain special in the hearts of all Bostonians, runners and spectators alike. 

Within Team Eye and Ear, a subset of people will be running specifically to raise money for Operation Airway.  Here’s the team after a run!


Each day we will feature a different runner so you can get to know our team better!

If you are interested in helping the cause, get more information at:

Stay tuned for daily updates on our awesome team!

Day 3-Time for clinic!

Day 3 was the day to prepare for the next mission, which means time for clinic!  You might ask, how do the patients make it into our clinic?  Here is your answer:



This is the amazing organization in Ecuador that has worked with us through the hospital to fund these patients who may not otherwise get treated.  The generosity and hospitality shown by these wonderful people is awe-inspiring.  A special shout-out goes to Susana Vallejo and Caridad Ramirez, two people in administration who stayed by our side during the long days and accepted patients on the spot to have their surgeries done on the same day as consultation!  We could not have done this without you!

While our clinic was filled with a variety of pediatric and adult otolaryngologic patients, this was the time for our speech pathologist to shine.  Sarah had people lined up out the door for feeding evaluations, from questions of aspiration to oral aversion, from children who have had previous airway surgery to babies with just don’t seem to eat right.  Any parents reading this blog can relate to the frustration and desperation felt when your child will not or cannot eat without problems.  Families were so grateful for Sarah’s advice and adjunct feeding instruments, like special nipples and sippy cups (things that are so readily available to us in the USA); many mothers broke down in tears when they saw how well their children did when they had the right diet and feeding device.  Carolina, a local speech pathologist who joined our mission group to learn from Sarah, was amazing, as she broke the language barrier while developing skills that would allow her to have a similar speech pathology set-up in Ecuador.  Here are just a few of the day’s highlights:

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And remember our little friend Marcel with Tetralogy of Fallot and subglottic stenosis who had a tracheotomy?  Even he got the chance to eat more comfortably with his trach after Sarah evaluated him.  What a sweet boy and a wonderful family!



After clinic, the hospitality and generosity continued, but this time in a different way.  Dr. Ernesto Quinones who you met previously, the pediatric pulmonologist on the team from Ecuador arranged a wonderful dinner so that we could celebrate our success and reminisce about the missions past.  Here are the founding fathers of Operation Airway, Drs. Ernesto Quinones, Christopher Hartnick, and Natan Noviski; and in the second picture, our most involved parent, Bernardo Tamayo, an advocate for parents and patients in his community.

photo 2-3    photo 1-3

Another wonderful day in Quito!

Day 2-Expect the Unexpected!

Well, as I said before, you never know what to expect on these missions!  Although we had planned for major airway reconstruction, it was a less involved surgery that saved a child’s life today.  For those of you who are in medicine, imagine walking into a room and hearing stridor, watching an O2 saturation hover between 85-90% at baseline, and seeing a kid who is just curled up in his mom’s lap comfortably.  For those of you not in medicine, picture a blue kid with noisy breathing just hanging out with mom.  This was what we got on day 2: a 16-month old male with an unrepaired Tetralogy of Fallot with subglottic and upper tracheal stenosis!

While it was a situation that could have had many negative consequences, we were able to perform a tracheotomy on the child without event to stabilize his airway for cardiac surgery.  But it never would have happened without the amazing teamwork between the Boston and Quito cohorts!  Let me tell you, the physicians here are intelligent, compromising, and humble.  Despite language barriers and cultural differences, the constant communication between the American and Ecuadorian surgeons, anesthesiologists, and intensivists was the definition of good medicine.  Because of these interactions, a life was saved today.  You can’t really ask for a better feel-good day than that!

But wait, the warm fuzzies only got better all day!! This trip truly brought the entire mission full circle, as Juan Mejia, the first every laryngotracheal reconstruction performed by our team, had his tracheostomy tube removed.

photo 2-2


While the parents were amazingly grateful, Juan’s reactions to the situation, from anxiety, to fright, to absolute happiness, were wonderful to see.

Juan was not the only patient to be decannulated that day.  Zoe Sanchez, a patient trached for severe laryngomalacia, was also decannulated.  Her family couldn’t be happier!!

photo 1


This was definitely our longest operative day, thanks largely in part to the wonderful staff at the Metropolitan Hospital operating room! Where else could you find people who say “We can run the ORs all night if you need” with a smile on their faces and without a single complaint?!  The reason the day ran so long was because we received a consult that day for a 5-yo with a parotid mass, Monica.  Although we recommended imaging as the next step, the family could not afford this type of workup.  In addition, it was unclear who dealt with this type of problem in the city; so naturally, we said let’s just remove it today!  The quiet and tearful thank you that we received from Monica’s mother was enough to wipe away any feeling of tiredness to help this wonderful family!

And so we did.  And I must say, the anesthesiologists, the scrub and circulating nurses–so pleasant to work with!  Here is a picture with one of the awesome anesthesiologists we worked with that night:

photo with anesthesiologist


So there you have it.  Changing lives while having our own lives changed.  All in a day’s work.  It is truly hard to imagine a better feeling than that.


Day 1-Great Start!

As any of you who have done missions before know, going to a new hospital means you have no idea what to expect.  But our first day was filled with grateful families, friendly doctors, and amazing teamwork between healthcare personnel from Boston and Quito alike.  The Operation Airway Team started by getting a lay of the land and finding out what it means to both patients and physicians to have us here.  Here is the team to start the mission:


In addition to the team that you met before, on the top left you see our pediatric pulmonologist, Dr. Ernesto Quinones; a visiting otolaryngologist from a local hospital, bottom left; our pediatric otolaryngologist at Hospital Metropolitano, Dr. Patricia Andrade, front right; and Bernardo Tamayo, a parent of a patient and tremendous supporter of our cause.  Without these people, Operation Airway would not have become such a success.

The operating room on day one was filled with patients who had undergone prior airway surgery and were ready to have their tracheostomy tubes removed.  While all the bronchoscopies went well and everyone was ready for decannulation, the most amazing part of it all was not the operations, but the tears in parents’ eyes when we told them that we thought their kids were ready to have their tracheostomy tubes removed forever.  It is that connection with families that makes our jobs and this mission worth every second.

Jose Luis Tamayo, Bernardo’s son, was a previous airway reconstruction patient who we saw once again on this visit.  While his family has become a part of ours, the possibility of removing his tracheostomy tube was an exciting moment for all of us.  Here is the family with Dr. Hartnick following his bronchoscopy.


And so goes our first day.  Exciting, rewarding, and just plain fun.

Stay tuned for more updates!