Google Cardboard helped plot innovative surgery for baby with rare heart condition

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Their daughter’s original doctors told them to “make the best of our time with her and just prepare to say goodbye.”

Teegen Lexcen was born with half a heart and one lung. Her condition was so rare that the doctors at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami thought her case was hopeless.

However, one member of the team, Dr. Juan Carlos Muniz, came up with the idea to look at images of her heart in Google Cardboard where it would be seen in virtual reality.

Google Cardboard is a virtual reality (VR) platform developed by Google with a head mount for a smartphone.

It basically looks a huge goggles made out of cardboard where you stick an iPhone inside, which allows you to see images in 3D.

Google Cardboard Helped Plot Innovative Surgery For Baby With Rare Heart Condition

Named for its fold-out cardboard viewer, the platform is intended as a low-cost system to encourage interest and development in VR applications.

According to a Fox 2 News story, “Muniz gave the contraption to Dr. Redmond Burke, director of cardiovascular surgery at Nicklaus. Using the device, Burke could move around and see the heart from every angle—to almost be inside the heart, checking out its structure.”

Allowing doctors to map out the surgery, Google Cardboard helped Teegan undergo an innovative surgery in December.

CNN recently gave Teegan parents an opportunity to see the images of their daughter’s heart, which brought a plethora of emotions for Cassidy and Chad Lexcen.

“Holy cow! This is so cool!” Chad said as he looked through Google Cardboard in his living room. “It’s almost like a little video game.”

Cassidy, meanwhile, couldn’t believe the device looked like a toy. “You don’t picture doctors and surgeons looking through a piece of cardboard and some glasses to plan a major life saving surgery.”

Seeing the inside of their daughter’s heart made them appreciate the inventive surgery that saved their daughters life.

Find out more about Teegan’s condition on the next page

The original doctors that looked into Teegan’s condition in Minnesotta told the Lexcens to “make the best of our time with her and just prepare to say goodbye.”

The toughest part in their journey was having to bring Teegan home with her twin sister Riley and telling their eldest daughter Harper that one of her sisters wasn’t going to make it.

“We had to tell her that we have these two baby girls but one of them is going to be an angel baby—and she was old enough to know what an angel baby was,” said Cassidy.

But Chad and Cassidy was unwilling to give up on their daughter, and their love for her daughter yielded great results, one of which was finding a new team of doctors at Nicklaus who was able to find a way to save her life.

Despite the success of the surgery, however, Teegan isn’t yet out of the woods.

“We were on a constant roller coaster. There were good days and bad days, good weeks and bad weeks,” one of the surgeons, Burke, said. “We were never sure if this was going to be it, if we were going to lose her.”

Google Cardboard Helped Plot Innovative Surgery For Baby With Rare Heart Condition

Photo credit: TODAY

Teegan was discharged from the hospital in June and has been doing well since then, save for a bad cold which sent her back in the hospital for a couple of days.

Burke, meanwhile, said that it’s impossible to make prognosis for Teegan because of her unusual anatomy. However, he also said that all her signs are good.

“She’s gaining weight, and that’s a good predictor of how well she’ll do,” he said. “Plus she’s got a resiliency, and that’s really key. She’s recovering from her cold, but if she’d caught that cold before the surgery, it would have killed her.”

The Lexcens are grateful for Burke and his team of doctors as well as the nurses who cared for Teegan while she was at the hospital. They’re also especially grateful for Google Cardboard.

“It’s amazing for the fact that it gave [Burke] the exact path that he needed to get to her heart,” Cassidy said.


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Written by

James Martinez