Cardboard. You can store stuff in it. You can sleep on it. You can wear it like a hat. Now you can save a baby’s life with it too.
Google Cardboard is a low-tech option that you can use to turn your smartphone into a virtual reality headset. Sold for just 20 dollars online (which is really expensive for a piece of cardboard, but dirt cheap as far as life-saving devices go).
Stick your smartphone into it after you’ve downloaded the right app, and you can see two-dimensional images in three dimensions.
Baby Teegan was so sick that her parents were told by doctors to take her home to die; however, doctors at the Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami used this piece of cardboard to plan an operation that they could not have prepared for otherwise- and in just four weeks she was taken off a ventilator, able to breathe on her own.
In another two weeks doctors expect her to be able to return home, and make a full recovery.
“It was mind-blowing,” Cassidy Lexcen, the baby’s mother, said. “To see this little cardboard box and a phone, and to think this is what saved our daughter’s life.”
Cassidy and Chad Lexcen were told by doctors in Minnesota that there was nothing that could be done to save Teegan Lexcen who was born with just one lung and almost half of a heart missing- they were sent home with a hospice nurse.
Two months later, Teegan was still alive- it was then that the Lexcans decided that the doctors might have been wrong.
After reading an article about Dr Redmond Burke, chief of cardiovascular surgery at Nicklaus Children’s Hosital in Miami, they contacted the hospital and were told to send in images of Teegan’s heart that were taken at the Minnesota hospital.
Though Burke would normally get Dr. Juan Carlos Muniz to recreate a 3-D model of the heart so that he could get a clearer picture of how he could proceed, their 3-D printer happened to be broken.
Muniz decided to download images of Teegan’s heart to his smart phone and stick it into a Google Cardboard he happened to be toying with in his office. The piece of cardboard (and the smartphone) allowed Burke to literally visualize how he would go about repairing Teegan’s heart.
They soon realized that the broken 3-D printer was a blessing in disguise, as the Google Cardboard allowed Burke to see the heart in the context of the baby’s other structures- allowing him to rule out a far more traumatic surgery that he had been contemplating when he was only able to see the 2-D images. A 3-D model would not have provided the necessary context to make that mental leap.
The night before the surgery, Burke used Google Cardboard to imagine every step he would need to take to save Teegan’s life. When he performed the surgery, he saw exactly what he had prepared for. “Sometimes that’s what makes the difference between life and death,” he said.
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