How does it feel to be trapped in a bubble? For some, this implies living in isolation. However, David Vetter, a young Texas child, lived in the real world - though in a plastic bubble. David, dubbed "Bubble Boy," was born in 1971 with severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) and was forced to live his whole life in a specially manufactured sterile plastic bubble until he died at the age of 12.
David would have been in 50's if he had lived. Thanks to therapy made possible in part by David's own blood cells, children with SCID can now live normal lives. According to a recent report, 14 of the 16 children who had the experimental therapy nine years ago are now adults.
But how did "Bubble Boy" do in life? Continue scrolling to see David's heartbreaking story, which was put together with the cooperation of Texas Children's Hospital, Baylor College of Medicine, and the PBS documentary "The Boy in the Bubble."
On September 21, David was born in Houston's Texas Children's Hospital. He was placed in a plastic isolator bubble after 20 seconds of being exposed to the outside world.
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David was not the family's first kid to be born with SCID. Carol Ann and David J. Vetter's first son died of the condition when he was a baby.
Carol Ann was informed by physicians that if she had another boy, her son would have a one in two chance of being born with SCID, an illness that only affects boys. The Vetters turned down an offer to have their child aborted.
Doctors thought David would outgrow SCID by the age of two, but he spent the rest of his childhood in "bubbles," NASA-designed isolator containment units.
Is raising a child in a bubble ethical? That's what 30 Texas Children's Hospital employees wondered - and eventually decided it was.
Thanks to NASA, David made his first steps outside the isolator bubble when he was six years old. For David, the space agency created a unique spacesuit that allowed him to walk and play outside.
David had to crawl down an insulated tunnel to get from the isolator to the spacesuit.
To keep David's environment sanitary, workers had to conduct a 24-step pre-excursion hookup and a 28-step suit-donning procedure each time he used his suit.
The complicated process of putting on the spacesuit was worth it for David and his mother, who was able to hold her son in her arms for the first time on July 29, 1977.
Dr. William Shearer, David's personal physician, is shown in this 1979 photo during a visit. Dr. Shearer is now the director of Texas Children's Hospital's allergy and immunology clinic, where he treats children with SCID.
David received school lessons via his bubble and was able to keep up with the other children his age.
In September 1979, David posed for his annual portrait. Immunologists told him that a potential cure would take another ten years to develop.
David's annual photograph was shot in September 1980.
In September 1982, David posed for his annual portrait. At the age of 11, he became more thoughtful and requested to see the stars. On his birthday, his family took him outside to enjoy the sky for 20 minutes.
Bone marrow transplants from ideal donors were traditionally used to treat immune diseases. However, in 1983, the Vetters learnt about a new process that would allow bone marrow transplants from non-perfectly matched donors, and they agreed to give it a try. Katherine, David's sister, contributed her bone marrow. Prior to the procedure, Dr. William Shearer speaks with David.
David died of lymphoma four months after getting the bone marrow transplant from his sister, a malignancy that was later revealed to have been brought into his system by the Epstein-Barr virus. Shortly after his death, the Texas Children's Allergy and Immunology Clinic established the David Center, which is dedicated to immune deficiency research, diagnosis, and therapy.