From the very start, Dontell faced serious challenges. “I was lucky enough that when he was born, he did survive,” his mother remembers.
Essie Peschong says doctors told her that her son’s face and chest hadn’t developed normally, narrowing his airways.
“Dontell had a lot of respiratory problems, a lot of problems breathing,” she says.
Over time, medical records reviewed by KARE 11 show he was prescribed supplemental oxygen at home along with a special CPAP device for sleep apnea.
But by the time he was 10, his mother says Dontell was still having breathing problems. Sometimes he was so exhausted, she said, that doctors were considering surgery to open up his airways.
One of the options considered was a surgery to gradually move part of his face forward.
“They explained they would cut Dontell from ear to ear, his skull, pull it forward. He would wear a fixator. We would turn it each day to pull the front of his face out,” Essie Peschong remembers.
Instead of that, Dontell’s family chose a less complicated surgery – a Tracheostomy or “Trach” for short. It’s a small tube inserted in his neck so air can bypass the blockage, especially at night.
“In the day time I keep it capped. In the night, I just like twist it off,” Dontell explained as he showed us how it works.
Dontell says it changed his life. “It was, like breathtaking, it was so good.”
For the first time, he says he was energized after getting a good night’s sleep.
“He was able to have friendships with people. He became Mr. Popular,” his mother says. “He started playing sports. He played lacrosse. And, you know, just really able to enjoy life.”
To celebrate the one-year anniversary of his surgery, Dontell’s family took a vacation to Washington, DC.
“We wanted to celebrate your new life, right?” Essie Peschong asked.
“That’s about right. Trach anniversary trip!” Dontell replied.