Doctors Use Google Cardboard To Save A Baby’s Life

All Things Work Together For His Good

There are times that it feels like everything is going wrong. But the story of little Teegan and the family fighting to save her, who just couldn’t seem to get a break, goes to show that sometimes those “glitches” are all part of a bigger, better plan!


Credit: CNN

When Teegan and her twin sister, Riley, were born, their parents, Cassidy and Chad Lexcen, were overjoyed. But that joy quickly turned to fear when they learned that Teegan had a heart and lung defect so rare that the doctors there in Minnesota had never seen it before.

This defect left the tiny girl with only one lung and she’s missing nearly the entire left half of her heart. So, doctors said there was nothing they could do and sent her home in hospice care to be kept as comfortable as possible. But God had different plans!


Credit: CNN

Two months later, little Teegan was still alive, and her parents decided to look for a second opinion. Through references from a friend of a friend, they were put into contact with doctors in a cardiac intensive care unit in Boston. Cassidy and Chad were thrilled to hear the doctors were willing to take a look at Teegan’s case, and so they immediately had the images of Teegan’s heart taken in Minnesota sent over to the Boston hospital.

Then they waited. Each passing day they grew more concerned, knowing that time was of the essence for their sweet daughter. When they followed up with the Boston hospital, they were disappointed to hear that, due to a communications glitch, there records had not yet been reviewed, but that doctors would be doing so soon.

For Cassidy and Chad, they knew they couldn’t wait. Teegan’s twin sister, Riley, was flourishing and growing at the rate of a normal, healthy baby. Riley’s full sized body next to her ever so tiny sister only highlighted the devastating impact Teegan’s half of a heart was having.

“I felt like we were racing against the clock,” Cassidy said.

Chad’s sister shared with the couple an article she had found on “The 20 Most Innovative Pediatric Surgeons Alive Today.” At number 3 was the answer to their prayers — Dr. Redmond Burke, M.D., who was noted as being a pioneer in pediatric cardiac surgery. He was just the doctor their little Teegan needed!


Credit: Top Master's In Healthcare Administration

Chad’s sister reached out immediately and received a reply right away. Dr. Burke and his colleague, Dr. Juan Carlos Muniz, reviewed Teegan’s files. Though they too had never seen a case like hers, Dr. Muniz was a cardiologist specializing in imaging. He and Dr. Burke devised a plan to create a 3-D model of Teegan’s heart.

But a few hours later, they got some bad news. The 3-D printer needed to create the model was broken.

“Technology always goes on the fritz at the worst possible time,” Dr. Muniz regretfully complained.

Yet another glitch in Teegan’s amazing story that at first glance looks like an obstacle. but soon it became evidence that a bigger plan was in motion!

Without the means to create the 3-D model, Dr. Muniz was forced to come up with another option. And as it turns out, this option wound up working far better than the original plan!

Dr. Muniz used an app called Sketchfab to download 3-D images of Teegan’s heart to his iPhone. He then used Google Cardboard, a pair of toy-like cardboard goggles selling for less than $20 online, to view the images with Dr. Burke.


Credit: CNN

The goggles provided a virtual reality type view, allowing the doctors to move around and see the heart from every angle — almost as if they were inside of Teegan’s body.


Credit: CNN

This view proved essential in devising the right plan to save Teegan. Had the doctors been able to print the 3-D model they’d originally devised, they would have had to surgically install the model using what’s called a clamshell incision. It would have been what Dr. Burke described as a “massive trauma” — one that would put Teegan’s life in serious danger given her weakened state.

“She was dwindling away. She’d been slowly dying for three months,” he said.


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But thanks to Google Cardboard, the doctors were able to see inside of her tiny body before ever making the first incision. They were able to figure out a way to get to her heart using the standard, and much safer, midline incision.

Without the Google Cardboard imaging, there would have been another problem. While the 3-D model would have given Teegan her heart, but would not have helped with the next issue — her ventricles.


Credit: CNN

A normal heart has two ventricles. The one on the right one pumps blood to the lungs, and the one of left sends blood to the rest of the body. Because of her defect, Teegan only had one ventricle — the right. And for as long as she’d been alive, her right ventricle had been doing the work designed for two. But it could do this at its current pace for so long.

“The right ventricle is the wimpier, weaker ventricle, and if ventricles could talk, it would say ‘I can’t do this. I’m not designed for this job,'” Dr. Burke said.

While there are surgeries that exist for this problem in the typical child heart patient, Teegan was anything but typical. Her rare defect had changed her heart’s anatomy, so that none of the existing procedures would have worked for her. But because of the specialized view offered by Google Cardboard, Dr. Burke was able to envision a new surgery that would shore up and reroute Teegan’s right ventricle so that it was able to do the work of two ventricles long term.

On the day of the operation, Dr. Burke proceeded with the carefully laid plan. And to his delight, after the incision had been made he found that Teegan’s heart was exactly the same inside her body as it had been in the images he’d so meticulously studied. He was able to proceed with no surprises, which he describes as “what makes the difference between life and death.”


Credit: CNN

And for 4-month-old Teegan, all of the “glitches” encountered over her journey were God’s own hand steering her parents and the doctors towards His greater plan. Praise God for this miracle, and for the beautiful reminder that all things, even life’s many hiccups, work together for His good!

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you hope in your latter end.” Jeremiah 29:11

God sent a miracle for this baby who was originally diagnosed with an ‘inoperable’ brain tumor!


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