A brighter Christmas for Hannah, first teen to be saved by 3D printed airway splint

14-year-old girl with autism who last Christmas was tethered to hospital bed celebrates happier holiday season with family

Last Christmas Eve, after more than 20 days spent at daughter Hannah’s bedside, Marsha and Tommy Coulter were called into a Texas hospital conference room faced with an unimaginable decision.

“The doctor asked us to consider taking Hannah off the vent and letting her go,” Marsha Coulter remembers. “It was one of the worst days of our lives. The worst Christmas Eve we could imagine. We cried all day and night. I begged God to keep this from happening. We were just hoping for a miracle.”

For 14-year-old Hannah, every breath was a battle. A lethal combination of a small chest cavity, an artery pushing up against her trachea and a rare, life-threatening disease that weakens the windpipe called tracheobronchomalacia had made breathing and eating increasingly difficult for the teen, who also has autism. Other surgeries hadn’t helped and few options were left.

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Saving a baby’s life with a 3-D laser printer

Kaiba's story

Ever since he was six weeks old, baby Kaiba often stopped breathing.  The part of his windpipe that carries air to his left lung would suddenly collapse, leaving him unable to breathe and requiring emergency assistance every time.

Kaiba had a condition called tracheobronchomalacia. It’s a rare condition – about 1 in 2,200 babies are born with tracheomalacia and most children grow out of it by age 2 or 3, although it is often misdiagnosed as asthma that doesn’t respond to treatment.

Severe cases, like Kaiba’s, are even more rare, and they are very frightening.

It’s a condition that has bothered me for years.  Children die from tracheobronchomalacia, but I hoped that help could be found for these children.

Kaiba’s parents, April and Bryan, were left watching helplessly each time he stopped breathing, praying that something would change and doctor’s predictions that he would never leave the hospital again weren’t true.

They lived in Ohio but they were willing to go anywhere if it meant they could get help for Kaiba.  Fortunately, they didn’t have to go far.


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