It was a joyous day in the jungle. Tarzan and Jane, the King and Queen of the Jungle, had just had a baby son. Everyone was gathered around to see. The snakes, monkeys, toucans, parrots, leopards, tigers, even the sloths were there. All were smiling and chattering happily and excitedly.
“Mum, he’sssss gorgeous!” Seth the snake whispered to his mum. “He really isssss”, she replied. “He’ll grow up to be a ssssstrong and ssssspecial boy!”
All the jungle animals waited patiently to hug Tarzan and Jane, and to look with wonder at the the new-born baby. They then headed back to their homes so that the little boy and his parents could get some rest.
As the sun began to set, the jungle began to get quiet. The whoops and the howls and the hisses and the grunts died down as the animals all began to fall asleep. All that was left was buzzing and hopping of the happy insects on the jungle floor.
Suddenly, from deep in the heart of the jungle a new sound appeared. It was one that none of the animals had heard before.
“U g h h h h – h o a r g h h h h h h h h, u g h h h h – h o a r g h h h h h h h h, u g h h h h – h o a r g h h h h h h h h”
Leah the leopard woke with a start. “Dad!”, she meowed, “what is that?”
“I don’t know, baby” daddy Leroy replied. “It sounds a bit like the pedals on that rusty bike you use!”
More of the animals began to wake up to the sound. They were very worried. It was coming from inside Tarzan’s hut in the middle of the jungle. Slithering and swinging and jumping and climbing and running and crawling they made their way closer. The sound was coming from the baby.
“Whaaaat is goooing ooon?” Simon the sloth asked his mum. “I’m tiiired.”
His mum wasn’t sure. She shook her head and slowly put her arm around him, pulling him close. “I dooon’t know my boy, buuut I’m sure Tarzan and Jaaane are taking care of hiiim.”
The whole jungle waited in anticipation and worry as the sound continued.
After a while the sound stopped, and Tarzan came outside holding his boy in his arms. Everyone was relieved to see the boy looked happy and healthy. He was smiling and even poking out his tongue! All of the animals cheered.
But oh no! – the cheer startled the young boy and he got upset and began to cry. As he cried, the sound started up again. Everyone looked at each other worriedly.
Timmy the toucan looked up at his older brother. “I’m worried”, he said. “How can he breathe while he makes that sound?” Timmy’s brother patted him on the head with a comforting wing, and said “don’t worry bro, just look at his face and his tummy. He’s still breathing OK. It’s just a funny noise, don’t be scared.”
Then Jane appeared too, with a bottle full of delicious looking milk. She began to feed her young boy and he calmed down. The strange sound stopped once again.
The crowd of animals began to whisper to each other before one of the parrots was brave enough to squark: “what is going on with boy? Why is making this sound?”
Tarzan smiled and said “thank you all so much for your worry. We really appreciate how much you care about our new boy. Why don’t you all sit down and we can explain what’s going on.”
The jungle animals sat down in a group outside Tarzan’s hut. Geoffrey the wise old gorilla climbed down from his favourite tree and stood proudly in the middle of the group. In his deep booming voice, he said: “the son of Tarzan and Jane has something called laryngomalacia. I know this may sound confusing but what it really means is that the hollow muscular tube that carries the air from outside down to your lungs when you breathe is a bit floppy.”
He asked all of the children to have a look at their teddies. Seth and Leah and Simon looked down at theirs. “Some babies are born with this tube a little floppy, like your teddies are. This is quite common. It doesn’t normally cause a problem, but can mean that at certain times the child makes an unusual sound, particularly when they breath in. This is because the tube flops inwards a little. It can be when they are asleep, lying in certain positions such as flat, or when they are excited or upset. And this is why you’ve heard the sound tonight.”
All the animals nodded as they began to understand.
Geoffrey continued. “It can also be worse if they get a little poorly, so please don’t be too surprised if the sound gets louder at some points in the future!”
Millie the monkey stuck her hand in the air. “Will it ever go away Geoffrey?”, she asked.
“That’s a very good question”, Geoffrey replied. “In most young children the sound goes away by the time they are about one or two years old, as the tube gets stronger. But occasionally it can remain for longer. If this happens we may like to take him to see a special doctor who can investigate things further. Does that make sense to everyone?”
The animals nodded some more.
“We don’t want you to be afraid of the sound”, said Tarzan. “So Jane and I thought it would be fun if we all practiced trying to make it! How does that sound?”
The young animals began to get excited as their parents smiled. Geoffrey made a fire to keep everyone warm and the jungle was filled with lots of interesting noises as the animals tried to copy the sound long into the night.