Advance with MUSC Health

Raylan's Story

Advance With MUSC Health
March 14, 2023
Smiling young boy in a hoody and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles T-shirt.

Raylan Burke, age 7, has not had an easy time of it since he was an infant. When he was just 4-months-old, he developed a virus that caused severe wheezing and shortness of breath. Raylan went to his primary doctor every few weeks – sometimes every few days – for breathing treatments and check-ins. He went to the MUSC Children’s Hospital at 7-months-old and received several medications to calm his wheezing and respiratory distress. Raylan remained sick off and on, and at 10 months of age was hospitalized for a week with pneumonia. 

After discharge, his primary care doctor referred Raylan to Shean Aujla, M.D., division director of pediatric pulmonology.

Aujla joined the MUSC Children’s Health team over seven years ago. She graduated from the MUSC College of Medicine in 2000 and completed her pediatric residency at the University of Connecticut. She did her pediatric pulmonology fellowship training at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, where she remained as a faculty member for several years. She came home to Charleston at the end of 2015 and became the division director of pediatric pulmonology. 

“My team consists of three pediatric pulmonologists, a pediatric pulmonary nurse practitioner and two pediatric allergists,” explained Aujla. “We care for children with any and all respiratory problems, including asthma, chronic cough and lung disease of prematurity. My team sees patients in the clinic setting as well as those hospitalized at the MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital.” 

Smiling young boy holding drawing of Baby Yoda (Grogu) dressed as Santa. “I have been caring for sweet Raylan for almost five years now,” she continued. “He initially had respiratory symptoms that looked like asthma, so he was treated with inhalers and breathing treatments. However, over time, he developed more chest congestion and a chronic cough. He started having daily wet coughing episodes, even when he wasn’t sick with a cold or respiratory virus. At that point, I did more testing, which included a bronchoscopy – this is taking a look inside the airways and getting a mucus sample. Raylan has had many other tests including a sweat test and genetic testing. It seems that his airways are inflamed and producing a lot of mucus which leads to his wet cough.” A sweat test it typically performed to rule out cystic fibrosis, which was the case with Raylan. 

From the moment the Burke family met Aujla, they said they knew she was amazing. “I remember telling my husband I almost wanted to cry happy tears because I felt heard and understood and also felt so much more confident and knowledgeable after one visit with her about how to help Raylan,” said Tricia Burke, Raylan’s mom. “Everyone at her office made us feel so at home, and Dr. Aujla is such a rare doctor. I wish I could accurately describe just how much she has impacted our family.” 

Raylan has chronic bronchitis and is on therapies to help to keep his lungs as healthy as possible. Aujla developed an action plan for the Burkes to guide them on when to use albuterol at the first sign of struggle or wheezing to help to ward off spiraling. Albuterol is a bronchodilator that relaxes the smooth muscles in the airways. Raylan is on breathing treatments and therapies at home to help to keep the mucus in his airways from “sticking” and getting infected. He also uses a chest vest, which helps to “shake” the mucus up so he can cough it out. 

“When Raylan comes to the office, I measure the health of his airways and lungs by doing breathing tests and imaging, which are chest CT scans,” Aujla added. “I see him and his family every three months in pulmonary clinic. His family does a tremendous job managing all his medications and therapies at home.” The breathing tests she performs are also referred to as pulmonary function tests. 

Her approach to care has always been to work as a team with patients and families. “I hope to foster a sense of trust and comfort being their pulmonologist. One of the simplest yet important things that I do is to listen fully to a family’s and child’s concerns when we are first meeting so that I can create the best treatment plans that fit their child’s respiratory needs. At MUSC, I am very fortunate to have pediatric-specific testing, as well as many other caring pediatric subspecialists to collaborate with, so that my patients can receive excellent care.” 

Today, Raylan is active in martial arts and loves basketball, climbing trees, jumping on the trampoline and drawing from videos on YouTube. He continues to have a daily wet cough and chest congestion. He gets sick easily and crashes quickly. But he said he enjoys spending every day with his family and friends, who describe him as a true ray of sunshine. 

“I don’t believe we have ever had a doctor that checks in with us, even on the weekends, and helped multiple times to keep Raylan out of a hospital because of her amazing care in office and through technology,” Tricia said. “I honestly know that Raylan would have been hospitalized much more had we not had her as his pulmonologist.”