When Teegan Lexcen was born in August, her prognosis was terminal. With just one lung and half of her heart missing, doctors sent her home with medication for comfort and a hospice nurse. Her parents, Cassidy and Chad, cared for her and Teegan's twin sister Riley, hoping to keep their sick daughter comfortable.
Two months later, Teegan was still alive and the Lexcen's started to question the Minnesota doctors' outlook for their daughter. So they looked around for a second opinion.
Meanwhile, Teegan's aunt did a little research and found a list of the most innovative pediatric surgeons in the U.S. Which is how they found Dr. Redmond Burke, chief of cardiovascular surgery at Nicklaus Children's Hospital in Miami. He took immediate interest in Teegan's situation, and the Lexcens raced to get him pictures and their daughter's medical files.
Burke, and the team of 30 cardiac doctors and nurses, met to discuss Teegan's case and possible treatment. They had never worked on an infant missing an entire lung and half a heart.
Using all the necessary technology available both in and out of the operating room Dr. Juan Carlos Muniz, a pediatric cardiologist who specializes in imaging, set out to create a model of Teegan's organs.
They hit a snag: the 3-D printer was broken.
Time was critical and they needed a solution. Another doctor recommended a different, less well-known option: virtual reality.
Muniz got hold of Google Cardboard and downloaded Sketchfab. Downloading images of Teegan's heart onto his iPhone, he showed them to Burke. Using Cardboard's Goggles, the doctors could look around the organs, studying them at every angle, seeing areas that a flat image would not show, more quickly than waiting for another printer to produce the models.
Seeing the problem gave the medical team the opportunity to carefully plan the solution to fix the baby's abnormal heart.
A plan was made and they went into the OR in Miami in December.
Even knowing the exact contours and complications of Teegan's heart didn't guarantee success. Doctors told reporters that her heart was deep in the left side of her body, which, without having been able to see virtually, might have required multiple incisions—a real trauma on an already unhealthy body, running the risk they'd fix the heart but lose the girl in the surgery.
Burke relied on the images to not only know what Teegan's heart looked like, but to map how the surgery. The night before she went under, he went over and over it, looking at the images produced by goggles, Google and an app.
When he opened Teegan up, the only surprise was how exactly her heart matched the virtual reality images.
Teegan's dad called it "mind-blowing."
Teegan was recently taken off the ventilator and is breathing on her own.
Doctors expect that, soon, she'll go home—this time, without meds meant to keep her comfortable until death; this time, without a hospice nurse.