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Google Cardboard Toy Helps Doctors Save Baby's Life

The Short of It

A Google Cardboard toy saved a baby's life, after doctors told her parents there was no hope.

The Lowdown

What is Google Cardboard? It's just a $20 pair of cardboard toy goggles that allows people to see things in 3-D using an iPhone app. But it also saved little Teegan Lexcen's life after all other avenues had been exhausted.

Teegan, who has a twin sister named Riley, was born last summer with just one lung and nearly the entire left half of her heart missing. The defect was so rare that doctors in Minnesota had never even seen it before, and they didn't know how to help her. Teegan's parents Cassidy and Chad were told to make their daughter as comfortable as possible because she would not survive long.

But two months later, the Lexcen's baby was still alive, so they decided to give hope another chance. After a few false starts, Chad read an article called "The 20 Most Innovative Pediatric Surgeons Alive Today," and that is how the family found Dr. Redmond Burke at the Nicklaus Children's Hospital in Miami.

Dr. Burke's first plan of attack was to make a multi-dimensional image of Teegan's heart using a 3-D printer, but the technology was broken. That's when doctors had to get creative. Dr. Juan Carlos Muniz, a pediatric cardiologist, had been toying around with Google Cardboard in his office when something clicked. Could this device hold the key to helping baby Teegan?

Using a device called Sketchfab, Dr. Muniz was able to download images of the little girl's heart onto his phone. The doctors say the technology gave them the ability to see the heart from all angles, almost as if they were inside the organ.

"It was mind-blowing. To see this little cardboard box and a phone and to think this is what saved our daughter's life," Teegan's mom told CNN about the surgery doctors performed on her then 4-month-old daughter.

In fact, the device not only helped doctors cut into the baby's tiny body with minimal trauma, but it also helped them plan and execute the lifesaving procedure without surprises along the way.

"Sometimes that's what makes the difference between life and death," Dr. Burke said.

The Upshot

Although the Lexcens once thought their daughter would surely die, Teegan is now expected to make a full recovery. She is breathing on her own and is expected to go home within a few weeks. Here's hoping her success story is only the beginning of what's possible in the future by using Google Cardboard.

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