Girl with rare condition arrives in Cincinnati for life-changing procedure

The family was only able to make the cross-country trip thanks to donations from strangers.
Published: Mar. 27, 2023 at 10:50 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI (WXIX) - A young California girl with a rare birth defect is in Cincinnati receiving a unique treatment only offered by a few doctors at a few hospitals in the country. Cincinnati Children’s is one of them.

She and her family flew into Lunken Airport Monday on an all-expense-paid private flight provided by Aero Angel.

Naomi Hartman is a 2-year-old girl from Orange County, California. She spent two months in the NICU before receiving a diagnosis of congenital bilateral vocal chord paralysis, according to her mother, Aubrey Hartman.

“When she was born, she surprised us all... She was born not breathing,” Aubrey said Monday night.

Aubrey and her husband, Hunter Hartman, say they knew then that the road ahead for Naomi would be full of twists and turns. Doctors say the condition affects one in a million babies. She requires a tube in her throat just to eat and breathe.

“It’s something I wouldn’t wish on anyone. It’s so much anxiety, and it’s so much unknown,” Aubrey said. “We have to manually clear her airway because she can’t cough anything out. There’s a worry with that with infections... Any virus hits her really hard.”

The only way Naomi will ever be able to breathe on her own is with a complete airway reconstruction and rib graft, which involves removing part of her rib and grafting it to her airways to expand them.

Her surgery is scheduled for this week at Cincinnati Children’s in Avondale, and she’s here for it thanks in part to Aero Angel pilot Bret Huseboe.

“I would say we probably average two flights a day,” Huseboe said. “Sometimes one, and sometimes three or four. [...]It’s very gratifying to be able to help out whenever you can.”

The Hartmans are endlessly appreciative of the nonprofit organization for helping ensure Naomi is here for the surgery.

“This experience is probably the best, maybe even the best personal experience we’ve ever had,” Hunter said. “With Naomi specifically, she’s not easy to travel with, and she’s got a lot of equipment.”

The flight would ordinarily have cost around $25,000 due to Naomi’s weakened immune system and equipment. It was all covered through donations.

“That kind of graciousness and that kind of generosity is what gives me faith in humanity,” Aubrey said.

The surgery is expected to take 7-8 hours and requires more than a month of healing time.

“We’re really excited to hear her laugh, for her to be able to crawl around the house,” Aubrey said.

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