Technology has become so integral to our lives that it permeates everything: the way we parent, the way we eat, the work we do and even the health care we receive. With each new technological advancement, there's excitement at the prospect of what new things we will be able to do. For one doctor, the technology that helped him save a life wasn't sleek or expensive — it was just some cardboard.
Well, Google Cardboard, that is.
The Lexcen family of Minnesota welcomed two baby girls last summer, twins named Teegan and Riley. Both are beautiful, smiley little girls, but one of them, Teegan, was born with a defect so unusual that doctors were sure she had only a few days to live: She was missing half her heart and an entire lung.
But Teegan did live. And when her parents saw she was not thriving the way her sister was, they decided to get in contact with a doctor they thought could save their daughter's life. That's exactly what Dr. Redmond Burke and a team of pediatric cardiology surgeons did.
With a cardboard toy.
The idea was actually to use a 3-D printer to get a tangible copy of Teegan's half-missing heart to decide how to proceed, so the team was already using technology that has only very recently been made available.
Of course, as is the way with most technology, the very expensive printer became a very expensive paperweight when the team realized it was broken and unusable. That was when Dr. Juan Carlos Muniz came up with a better, cheaper, more effective idea.
They used a piece of extremely rudimentary virtual reality goggles known as Google Cardboard and an app called Sketchfab to create a 3-D image of Teegan's heart so they could figure out exactly what they were dealing with when they went to operate. It worked like a charm — they were able to perform lifesaving surgery on Teegan that otherwise would not have been possible.
Soon, the doctors say, she'll be right as rain. A little girl who needed a ventilator to breathe is already doing it on her own, and in just a while she and her twin will be home again.
It's definitely something to think about if you're ever tempted to bemoan "the good old days" when life was simpler and kids went outside to play instead of sticking their smartphones into cardboard boxes and walking around with the whole thing strapped to their face.
These advancements — like 3-D printers and Oculus Rift, the virtual reality gaming headset — that we so often view as little more than toys to make our life a little more convenient or fun have so much more potential. The newest phone, gadget or gizmo always seems to launch a million think pieces that usually serve as a tut-tutting to the world for allowing ourselves to succumb to the siren song of the newest, sleekest, shiniest thing.
Remember when things were simpler?
This proves they can be both. Google Cardboard is a relatively simple thing to use, but the avenues it opens and the technology it could precede are endless.
It's about more than just silly little phone games or expensive diversions. It's clear this type of technology, in all its forms ranging from simple to utterly complex, has the potential to save lives.
If the price we have to pay for the lives of babies like Teegan is a few distracted dinner dates and countless think pieces about them, then that's a price we should willingly pay.
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