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Arizona teen becomes the first patient to receive life-changing surgery to help him sleep

Chetan Brown, 13, struggled for years to get a good night's rest until a surgeon at Phoenix Children's Hospital transformed his life.

PHOENIX — A good night's rest is a gift most of us take for granted. For those diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), sleeping six to eight hours a night is a challenge. 

OSA is a serious condition that impairs a person's quality of life and causes excessive daytime sleepiness, inattention, fatigue and depression. Chetan Brown, 13, has struggled with OSA since he was 18-months old. Chetan also has Down syndrome. 

“For a child that already has a lot of challenges, just doing regular things when you add lack of good sleep, it makes the day more challenging,” his mother Stephonie explained.  

Treatment for OSA is typically a continuous positive airway pressure - or CPAP machine that people wear during sleep but the intervention is challenging for many children.

For years, Chetan had a hard time focusing at school because of poor sleeping patterns. He was exhausted all the time and cranky even though he had his tonsils and adenoids removed along with his palette expanded and tongue muscle reduced. He just wasn’t getting the relief he needed. 

But then he saw Dr. Sharon Gnagi, an ears nose and throat surgeon at Phoenix Children's who specializes in implanting a device called Inspire which works inside the body to fully open a person's airway and enable normal breathing during sleep. 

“It tells this electrode when to stick out our tongue,” Gnagi said. She saw an opportunity with Chetan and performed the procedure on him in October. 

 “I’ve been so lucky with Dr. Gnagi," said Chetan. "My robot, it makes me sleep.” 

Chetan became the first pediatric patient in the southwest to receive the implant. 

His mother Stephonie says for the first time ever, he is getting a good night's rest. “He’s able to concentrate better. He’s able to think about things and maybe not react as quickly or get upset as he used to. Improved his ability to stay in school. It’s definitely improved his quality of life more than we could have imagined,” Stephonie said.   

Dr. Gnagi hopes Chetan's story can help inspire other families with kids experiencing OSA that there is hope and Chetan is happy to be a champion for other kids too! 

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