Baby girl born with 1 lung and given 20% chance of survival goes home

Charlotte Valliere's doctor and her parents all call her "a fighter."

ByYi-Jin Yu via via logo
August 18, 2022, 4:10 AM

A California girl has beaten the odds to reunite with her twin and return home with her family after a six-month stay at a San Diego hospital.

Charlotte and her twin sister, Olivia, were born to Karla and Joshua Valliere last December, but in January, Charlotte was suddenly admitted to Rady Children's Hospital with breathing difficulties and a respiratory infection.

At first, the Vallieres didn't know what was wrong. Olivia was healthy, and although Charlotte had been born with one lung, she hadn't had any issues after birth.

PHOTO: Charlotte and her twin sister Olivia were born in December 2021. This was the first time they were laid down together on Dec. 15, 2021.
Charlotte and her twin sister Olivia were born in December 2021. This was the first time they were laid down together on Dec. 15, 2021.
Courtesy Joshua Valliere

"Her one lung grew like 1.5 sizes, so it was compensating for the lack of the second one. So [doctors] did run all the studies. She was totally fine -- oxygenation, everything 100%, so we were cleared to go after four days in the hospital," Karla Valliere told "Good Morning America." "It was six weeks at home -- total bliss. Everything was great ... and all of a sudden she started having breathing problems."

The Vallieres took their daughter to Rady on Jan. 29, and she was admitted and placed on an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation machine, or ECMO.

PHOTO: Charlotte, pictured here on Jan. 20, 2022, was admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit at Rady Children's Hospital the day before with breathing problems.
Charlotte, pictured here on Jan. 20, 2022, was admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit at Rady Children's Hospital the day before with breathing problems.
Courtesy Joshua Valliere

Dr. Matthew Brigger, chief of the pediatric otolaryngology division at Rady Children's Hospital, started seeing Charlotte, who was just six weeks old at the time. Charlotte would eventually be diagnosed with tracheal stenosis and complete tracheal rings. This meant she had a birth defect with her airway where the rings in her trachea were abnormal and she had an abnormal narrowing of the trachea, or windpipe. She also had a blood vessel wrapped around her trachea.

"This set of anomalies, with the single lung, with the way the aorta was wrapped around the trachea itself and the trachea being this narrow, is actually fairly rare," Brigger told "GMA."

"We knew that she had a critical airway that if anything were to progress, trying to keep her intubated, that was gonna potentially injure the airway and give us more difficulty in repairing it. So the ECMO was sort of a bridge to surgery," he continued.

But the surgery was a major one and in order to do it, Brigger and the rest of Charlotte's doctors had to wait until she was big enough, since she and her twin had been born a few weeks early and therefore, Charlotte was small for her age.

PHOTO: Olivia, left, and Charlotte are identical twins. They're pictured here on Jan. 8 before Charlotte was admitted to the hospital with breathing problems.
Olivia, left, and Charlotte are identical twins. They're pictured here on Jan. 8 before Charlotte was admitted to the hospital with breathing problems.
Courtesy Joshua Valliere

"Initially I [told the parents], 'Well, if we can get through surgery, I'm gonna give her 50-50," Brigger said. "[But] I'm thinking more 20% of getting through surgery at the time, just knowing how much that we had to go through."

Despite the low chance of survival, Charlotte's surgery was a success.

"Fortunately, Charlotte's a fighter and we got to do the surgery. She sailed through surgery," he said.

The Vallieres said that throughout the monthslong stay in the hospital and all the ups and downs, with Charlotte's complications, multiple surgeries and treatment, they drew strength from their own daughter.

PHOTO: Charlotte seen here was born with one lung and required surgery for a narrow trachea among other treatments.
Charlotte seen here was born with one lung and required surgery for a narrow trachea among other treatments.
Courtesy Joshua Valliere

"The thing that ... I believe got us through was her. She never gave any sign of weakness," the mom of two said.

After spending 185 days in the hospital, Charlotte was finally discharged on Aug. 1, and her parents and twin sister were there to celebrate and bring her home.

"It was just a lot of emotions and it was just a roller coaster. But now we have them together, so it's worth it," Karla Valliere added.

The family is now raising funds through GoFundMe to help care for Charlotte, who they say need around-the-clock care with medications every four to six hours.

PHOTO: Charlotte was discharged after a 185-day stay at Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego, Calif.
Charlotte was discharged after a 185-day stay at Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego, Calif.
Courtesy Joshua Valliere
PHOTO: Joshua and Karla Valliere with their twins "Olivia and Charlotte," who are 8 months old.
Joshua and Karla Valliere with their twins "Olivia and Charlotte," who are 8 months old.
Courtesy Joshua Valliere

Today, Brigger said he doesn't anticipate Charlotte needing a second lung at all and her future looks bright.

"Prognosis is very good. She may not be running marathons in the future but she is Charlotte so it's hard to say. She's proved people wrong all along. I expect her to be able to live a good life," he said.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events