Reflecting on an Operation that Allowed a Child to Eat Normally (Except for the Occasional Hot Dog)


Dawn Fallik

Mary Kmosko remembers falling to her knees when Bruce M. Hogg, a 1933 graduate of P&S, came out of the operating room and told her the procedure was successful. Her son, Andrew J. Kmosko Jr., had been born June 7, 1947, but could not eat because his esophagus was not connected to his stomach.

Doctors typically treated the condition by inserting a feeding tube, one that remained for a lifetime. But Dr. Hogg, a pediatric surgeon at what was then called Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, thought they should first try something else.

Three days after his birth, Andy underwent a three-hour surgery to re-attach the esophagus. He spent four months in the hospital and a year later was able to return to the hospital to eat a piece of birthday cake.

“I was so happy because I didn’t want him to have a life tied to a feeding tube in his stomach,” says Mary Kmosko, now 94. When she tried to thank Dr. Hogg he brushed off the praise, saying that he had been helped from above.

Andy Kmosko, now 66 and a retired health and physical education teacher who lives in Ship Bottom, N.J., said he returned to the hospital every week at first to dilate his esophagus. The trips slowed to every month and then every six months until he was 10 years old.

The family drove from North Plainfield, N.J., to New York City, about an hour away, for the visits. Mr. Kmosko remembers the drive, seeing the George Washington Bridge, and the smell of the hospital.

Jose M. Ferrer Jr.’38 oversaw the checkups. Dr. Ferrer, who died in 1982, became director of Columbia’s surgical service at Bellevue Hospital and was director of Columbia’s surgical service at Harlem Hospital from 1967 to 1973, when he became associate dean in charge of postgraduate medicine at P&S. Dr. Hogg died in Florida in 1965.

Mary and Andrew J. Kmosko Jr.

“It wasn’t exactly pleasant,” says Mr. Kmosko of the return checkups. “They had to put tubes down my throat to dilate the esophagus.” The procedure worked. Mr. Kmosko can eat “fairly normally” although he has to be careful with tough foods like steak and he has had a few unpleasant run-ins with hot dogs.

“I can’t eat too fast and I have to chew it a lot, but that’s it,” he says.

When Andrew turned 10, he was honored at a celebration at the hospital, where Dr. Hogg, who relocated to Miami in 1951, and Dr. Ferrer held a conference with other doctors to talk about the procedure. Andrew was there to answer questions and offer the patient perspective.

Mrs. Kmosko, who lives in an assisted-living center near her son in New Jersey, says it made her and her husband, a 95-year-old retired New Jersey patrolman, so happy to see their son grow up being able to eat alongside his friends. “The doctors were wonderful, and Andrew never complained about going to the hospital,” says Mrs. Kmosko.

Andrew Kmosko said he realizes how lucky he is to have survived the operation. “My hope is that by being a coach and a teacher, I was able to give back in some way.”