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Amy Umble is health reporter for The Free Lance-Star

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How a kindergarten teacher from Texas traveled to Fredericksburg for a breath-saving operation

Dr. Timothy Sherwood

Laura Herbst had experienced a lifetime of respiratory problems, from chronic bronchitis to asthma and shortness of breath. However, that changed about two months ago when Dr. Timothy Sherwood of Mary Washington Hospital performed a complex operation on her trachea. 

Her story, including her travels from Texas to Virginia and her operation at MWH, will be published soon in the paper. A portion of that story appears here:


Laura Herbst was having trouble breathing and had traveled from her home in Texas to see Dr. Timothy Sherwood at Mary Washington Hospital.

Sherwood, a thoracic surgeon, placed a scope down Herbst’s throat and watched as she exhaled.

“Her entire trachea and the right mainstem bronchus collapsed completely,” he said. “It was quite impressive.”

Laura Herbst

Herbst suffered from a rare, congenital condition of her wind pipe, called tracheomalacia. Surgery was clearly her best option, yet no doctor in Texas would attempt the complex operation. In fact, Herbst’s pulmonologist told her that she could recommend only two surgeons in the United States.  One worked at Harvard Medical School in Massachusetts. The other was Sherwood.

And so it was that the 46-year-old kindergarten teacher, joined by her husband, Fred, and her daughter, Alyssa, drove 1,400 miles from Georgetown, Texas, to Fredericksburg for her medical care.

Sherwood operated on Herbst’s trachea at MWH in June. When she awoke in the recovery room, she realized she was breathing easily for the first time in years.

“It was a great day,” she said recently in a phone interview. “It was a total new beginning of a life.”

(Update: The story appeared in the paper on Sept. 1 and can be seen here.)