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Tuesday, October 18, 2011 - Patient Kyle Branham Overcomes Multiple Collapsed Lungs to Become X Factor Contestant

Fort Lauderdale, Fla. - It was the one thing that kept Chris Evert Children’s Hospital patient Kyle Branham, 17, motivated to recover: The X Factor.  Lying in a hospital bed for the third time in a month, suffering from spontaneous pneumothorax, his lungs deflating due to multiple blebs (air bubbles) rupturing on his lungs and causing leakages, Branham looked at his mother, Alexandra Labarr, and said, “Mom, I can’t do this.  I’m supposed to be a super star.” 

Branham is a singer.  It is his passion, it’s who he is.  Already being scouted by Sony Records, Branham had a promising future in the music industry when in the summer of 2010 he started to feel discomfort in his stomach.  After a number of doctor visits that resulted in him being told he had gas, his diagnosis changed on Aug. 5, 2010, when Branham began having extensive difficulty breathing.  He was rushed to Broward Health Coral Springs Medical Center (CSMC), where he was told that his left lung was 75 percent collapsed.  A CAT scan also revealed that he had numerous blebs on both lungs and surgery was imperative.

Branham was transferred to Chris Evert Children’s Hospital (CECH), where Dr. Eugene Costantini, a cardiothoracic and thoracic specialist, agreed to take on Branham’s case after others turned it down due to its complexity.  Pneumothoraxes often appear in adolescent males, and the condition was one which probably Branham was born with and became exacerbated upon a recent growth spurt.  But despite the severity of Branham’s blebs, the surgery to repair Branham’s left lung was successful, and it was decided that surgery on his right lung would be completed in December.

The strategy changed on Aug. 28 when Branham began having discomfort and was once again rushed to CSMC.  It was determined that this time his right lung had collapsed 10 percent.  Transferred back to CECH, he went into surgery, where Dr. Costantini repaired his right lung. 

After his discharge from CECH, Branham wasn’t the same.  Labarr said that after learning the blebs were something that could reoccur, Branham suffered anxiety attacks, had shortness of breath and even had difficulty walking the stairs.  However, his lack of air was attributed to anxiety, as even Branham admitted that he was terrified his lungs would fail again.  But on one fateful night in September 2010, Labarr realized it wasn’t a simple case of anxiety.  She was awoken by her son in the middle of the night.  Branham’s worst fears had become reality, and he was incapable of breathing, gasping for air and his eyes reflected his terror.  Labarr says, “I thought I was going to lose my son.”

An ambulance was called, and Branham was transported to CSMC.  It was quickly determined that his right lung had again collapsed, this time 100 percent.  The CSMC medical team worked feverishly to stabilize Branham and later told Labarr that if they had waited until morning to come to the hospital, Branham would not have survived the night.

Upon his stabilization, Branham was transferred back to CECH, where Costantini was waiting to perform emergency surgery.  Labarr was told that unlike the previous surgeries, this one might be much more complex and serious.  Costantini’s prediction proved true, as the surgery was more invasive.  The recovery would prove to be lengthier and more challenging, as well.

Branham was in CECH for more than a month.  But it was not the length of his recovery that frustrated him; it was his inability to sing.  Due to his lung strength being diminished, Costantini prescribed no singing for his patient.  But Branham found a way to channel his musicality in another way.  He began writing songs for his nurses.  And although he couldn’t sing to his caretakers, he would whisper the songs to them whenever they came to check on him.            

On Nov. 5, 2010, Branham was discharged from CECH for the last time.  He was told to limit his singing and be cautious when attempting high, big notes.  What this meant for Branham was that he would have to re-learn how to sing, because prior to his surgeries, Branham was a power singer.  The high notes were his forte.  But now, with his lungs stapled to his chest walls, his lung capacity was diminished and his breathing was restricted.

True to his character, Branham started singing once he was home.  And when he found out that The X Factor would be launching an American version, Branham’s purpose in life became winning The X Factor.  Day and night, Branham was singing, learning the changes in his body and singing ability, while strengthening his lungs and researching The X Factor.  Winning the reality show became his life’s ambition.

On April 6, 2011, just eight months after his lungs collapsed and multiple surgeries, Branham and Labarr were waiting in the endless audition lines so that Branham could begin his quest to win The X Factor.  After waiting for more than a day, Branham got his chance to impress the judges.  Only time will tell how far Branham progresses. In the meantime, Branham can often be found lurking in the hallways of CECH as he stops to sing and bring hope to the hospital’s current patients.  “I just want to inspire people,” Branham says. 

In his heart, Branham knows that the best way to inspire others is through his voice.  No matter the outcome on The X Factor, Branham will continue to sing and bring hope to all those who will listen to his song and his story…a story of courage, determination and the power of music.

The X Factor premiered on Fox on Wednesday, Sept. 21 at 8 p.m.     

To see Kyle's inspirational story, click HERE.

Broward Health, providing service for more than 50 years, is a nationally recognized system offering world class health care services to our neighbors in South Florida. Broward Health includes Broward General Medical Center, North Broward Medical Center, Imperial Point Medical Center, Coral Springs Medical Center, Chris Evert Children’s Hospital, Broward Health Weston and more than 30 facilities of the Community Health Services and Broward Health Physician Group. For more information, visit BrowardHealth.org.

Photo: (L to R): Branham's mother, Alexandra Labarr; patient Kyle Branham; and Dr. Dr. Eugene Costantini, cardiothoracic and thoracic specialist, CECH.