KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- At twenty months old, Jude Schinzel spreads joy as wide as his grin. And to think, at birth, you couldn't see Jude's mouth.
A massive tumor was growing out of the roof of his mouth. A half pound of his four-pound body was tumor.
"There was nothing to describe what I felt when I actually saw the tumor for the first time," said his father, Chris Shinzel.
His mother, Tracy, said it looked like Jude had a blown-up piece of bubble gum. The tumor was non-cancerous, but it still threatened Jude's life. Even before the umbilical cord was cut, doctors at Children's Mercy Hospital created an airway. Then they put in a trach since he needed to be on a ventilator.
At one month, Jude had surgery to remove the tumor.
"To know it was successfully, fully removed with no complications was a huge, huge feat," said Tracy.
But challenges remained and still do since the tumor did a lot of damage. Jude has been off the ventilator since March.
"Now we need to progress to where we can get the tracheostomy tube out," said Dr. Linda Gratny.
When a speaking valve is placed on Jude's trach so he can try to talk, he coughs. He'll have his airway scoped soon to find the problem. In the mean time, the family practices sign language.
"Because of the damage the tumor did, they aren't sure he will be able to talk even after the trach is removed," said Tracy.
Jude hasn't been able to learn to swallow, so he still has a feeding tube. But Dr. Gratny sees many positive signs.
"His motor skills and activity level is just very impressive -- and a very social child," said Dr. Gratny.
Chris says people tell them that Jude is the happiest baby they've ever met. Free of a large tumor, Jude just keeps going.
The Schinzels learned during pregnancy that Jude had the large tumor. His parents moved to Kansas City from Idaho so Jude could be delivered in the Fetal Health Center at Children's Mercy and receive specialized care there. He was delivered two months early.