Meet The Team
Kesi Dorner-Wright started Tracheal Stenosis Foundation in 2008. Like so many others, she was misdiagnosed with asthma for several years before being properly diagnosed with idiopathic subglottic stenosis (stenosis close to the vocal cords due to an unknown cause). Kesi spent most of her childhood performing on stage as a singer and dancer. In 1998, she began to tour with various well known artists, including LL Cool J. With each performance, she noticed she would quickly become out of breath. She decided to see her primary doctor and was diagnosed with exercise-induced asthma. She continued touring throughout the US, all the while relying on Albuterol and steroid pumps to open her airway.
In 2003, she moved to Atlanta, GA and joined a dance company. As they rehearsed, she became lightheaded and nearly fainted. She knew something was wrong and went to see a doctor the very next day. It was then that a nurse examined her breathing and determined that she was not asthmatic, but instead seemed to have a strange sound coming from her airway. Finally properly diagnosed with tracheal stenosis, she underwent three (3) dilations to widen her airway within an 18 month time frame. Each time, the scar tissue returned stronger and quicker than the last. An Atlanta surgeon recommended and unsuccessfully performed a tracheal resection. She came out of surgery with a trach, in which she would have for the next 8 years following the resection. She flew to Massachusetts General Hospital for a second opinion. There she met two of the best surgeons in the world, Dr. Douglas Mathisen and Dr. James Burns of MGH Voice Center. After that initial meeting, Dr. James Burns would become her doctor and surgeon for the next 8 years and performed 24 out of 30 procedures.
Over the next 7 years, Kesi would have 26 more surgeries to create an airway, repair vocal cords and help her breathe. Today, she speaks in a raspy airy voice due to a paralyzed vocal cord, yet a vast improvement from where she was just 10 years ago. Thanks to the persistence and efforts of Dr. James Burn, the trach was removed after 8 long years. She is happy to announce that she can now dance again. Kesi went scuba diving for the first time in her life 2 years ago after the trach was removed. She also has an awesome career as a Regional Human Resource Director.
With the help of her graduate school advisor, Dr. Waldner, Kesi began this foundation to help the growing population of people diagnosed with this condition. Kesi stated, "Thanks to social media, today we are able to find various support groups and gain more knowledge about tracheal stenosis. Ten years ago, when I was first diagnosed, there was very little information about this condition. I have shared my story at conferences, colleges and churches in an effort to raise awareness. My goal was to save someone from going through all that I had endured. Thank you to my family, friends and all of those who I haven’t met, that continue to support such a great cause."
Growing up in Georgia with a passion to help others and a sociable spirit, Nikki Peebles was the perfect choice for Program Director of the Tracheal Stenosis Foundation. Beginning in 2012 when she was diagnosed with TS to 2014 when she accepted the position, Nikki has been an active part of the TSF family; from her social media presence and advocacy campaigning to her outreach and charity efforts within the community. She has developed a strong sense of devotion for the non-profit sector as she promotes and supports N.O.R.D in its recognition of Tracheal Stenosis during Rare Disease Day in Georgia. Starting in 2017, Nikki will begin working with local legislators to push for the establishment of a Tracheal Stenosis Awareness day for the state of Georgia. Her current TSF focus areas include fundraising, social media exposure, website management, and patient advocacy. Nikki is 4 years post resection but through the tough days of TS, Nikki lives by one simple motto – No matter the struggle never lose your smile, just take each day, one breath at a time.