WINDSOR, Ont. — Baby Joseph, the infant at the centre of an international right-to-life debate, returned home to Ontario on Thursday morning.
Fifteen-month-old Joseph Maraachli arrived at Windsor airport shortly before 7:30 a.m. on a medical transport flight from St. Louis, Missouri, where he underwent a tracheotomy last month
Two ambulances were waiting for him and the child was accompanied by his father, Moe Maraachli.
The baby has a progressive neurological disease called Leigh Syndrome.
His parents have been fighting to bring him home to die ever since doctors at London Health Sciences Centre in Ontario determined he was in a persistent vegetative state and recommended he be taken off life support.
Joseph's sister, Zina, died from a similar condition nine years ago.
The Ontario hospital refused to perform a tracheotomy, saying it would be invasive and futile, with too many complication risks.
The baby's parents fought the doctors' decision but an independent Ontario tribunal and the Superior Court sided with the hospital.
A U.S. pro-life organization, Priests for Life, paid for a private plane to take Joseph to St. Louis, where he got the tracheotomy.
On Thursday morning, the baby was immediately transported to Windsor Regional Hospital, Met campus, where he'll be examined by doctors before he is cleared to go home.
According to a statement issued Thursday by SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Centre in St. Louis, Joseph responded well to the tracheotomy.
The procedure, which creates an opening into Joseph's windpipe through an incision in his neck, was a success, said Dr. Robert Wilmott, chief of pediatrics.
"Joseph has been breathing on his own, without the aid of a mechanical ventilator, for more than a week," Wilmott said. "By providing him with this common palliative procedure, we've given Joseph the chance to go home and be with his family after spending so much of his young life in the hospital."
Joseph, his parents and seven-year-old brother spent more than a month in St. Louis.
"So many people from the United States and Canada and all around the world have reached out, sent letters and called my family to let us know they were praying for us and thinking about us," Moe Maraachli said in the statement issued by the hospital.
"This has really helped our family through this hard time, to know there is so much kindness in the world.
"We are so grateful for the amazing care and compassion we have received from the doctors, nurses and staff of Cardinal Glennon. Our family also wants to thank the team at Windsor Regional Hospital for reaching out to our family and Dr. Wilmott and making the transfer back home a reality."
Doctors initially expected to transition Joseph to a rehabilitation hospital, but he responded so well to the tracheotomy that he was discharged directly home to Windsor.
© Copyright (c) The Windsor Star