A YOUNGSTER who has already defied doctors could see his life transformed by complex surgery to allow him to breathe unaided.
Using cartilage from his rib, medics in Leeds hope that afterwards he will be able to breathe without the tracheostomy he currently relies on.
The four-year-old has already surprised experts who thought he may be on a ventilator for life.
Lyall’s mum Sharron Cook, from Chapel Allerton, Leeds, said: “It’s too exciting. It would be the best thing that could happen in his life.
“The potential is just amazing.
“He will still be a little boy with an underlying heart condition, chronic lung disease and Down syndrome, but this would just be brilliant for him and for us as a family.”
Lyall suffered heart failure soon after birth and needed a risky operation, followed by more surgery in early 2010.
Later he was diagnosed with a rare lung condition and spent six months in intensive care. After returning home, he was expected to be on a ventilator long-term, possibly for life.
But he has now come off the machine, though he relies on the opening in his windpipe to breathe.
As he has got used to the tracheostomy, and because of the effects of his previous treatment, his airway has collapsed so he can’t cope without it.
Now, after regular checks, Lyall’s surgeon says he can carry out a full reconstruction.
During the six-hour operation next month , which will see the youngster have his 20th general anaesthetic, a piece of cartilage from Lyall’s rib will grafted onto his airway to strengthen it.
Afterwards he will be sedated and ventilated in intensive care for several days to allow the graft to heal.
Sharron’s partner Steph Ward said they were “terrified” at the prospect and risks but felt they had to give Lyall the chance to be free of the tracheostomy.
“He would not have to have constant medical intervention, he would not be in danger of his trachy coming out, he should be able to vocalise, he would be less at risk of infection.
“It’s the little things, like we’d be able to ask friends to look after him for an hour.
“We would be able to go out with just a bag of nappies and a change of clothes – at the moment we have to take loads of medical stuff whenever we leave the house.
“If it works it will be life-changing for Lyall and for us.”
Lyall’s family, including older brothers Dan and Max, have been delighted by his progress, which has seen him learn to walk and communicate using sign language.
“He’s at playgroup every morning, he’s so popular and such a part of all his friendship groups,” Sharron added.
“He’s got a place at a mainstream school in September.
“For him to go to school without his trachy would be amazing. He will have a support worker but won’t need a medical person standing at his shoulder.”
The couple, who said they had found very useful support through the Tracheostomy UK Support Group, have set up a blog to keep friends updated.
Log on to http://smileylyallsmums.blogspot.co.uk.