The most beautiful sound in the world

Zaïra Nicholas-Exume took a long time to say her first words.

Born prematurely, at just 27 weeks, she was transferred to the Montreal Children’s Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

Diagnosed with a larynx that was too soft, preventing air from passing, she needed a tracheostomy to allow her to breathe and eat.


“This was the last option”, Zaïra’s mom, Rasheeda Nicholas, told Héloïse Archambault, of Le Journal de Montréal, in December 2018.

In May 2017, just days after her first birthday, Zaïra had her first major surgery. Doctors transplanted cartilage from her ribs into her larynx to strengthen it.

The following November she went home for the first time. But she faced another similar surgery, four months later.

By November 2018 Zaïra could finally breath and eat on her own. And she was beginning to talk.

“It was wonderful to see her talking”

“When I heard her voice, it was the most beautiful sound in the world,” Rasheeda Nicholas told Héloïse Archambault.

"It was wonderful to see her talking," says Dr. Mylene Dandavino, a pediatrician at the Children's who knows Zaïra well.

Zaïra’s voice is losing the hoarseness, as she’s now talking all the time. But it is still too soon to know if there will be any long-term effects.

"For the voice to be normal, it takes mobile vocal cords," Dr. Dandavino says. "The results are variable” she says. "It will be necessary to see with time."

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