Throwback 70s | Health | Weird | History | Science | Vintage

What Happened To The "Bubble Boy" David Vetter?

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Baylor College of Medicine Photo Archives

Some historical events are so strange, it's almost easier to believe that they never really happened in the first place.

Take the case of David Vetter, the boy from Texas who became known around the world as "the boy in the plastic bubble." Decades later, the idea of a boy growing up in a bubble has found its way into comedy movies and sitcoms, but almost no one remembers Vetter's real story.

Vetter as an infant.Texas Children's Hospital

The boy was born on September 21, 1971 with a condition called Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID) and lived for just 20 seconds in the outside world before being placed in a protective bubble.

Because of Vetter's condition, even a very small amount of germs could kill him. His parents, Carol Ann and David J., had already lost a son to SCID as an infant before David was born, and were warned by doctors that if they had another boy his chance of developing the condition would be one in two.

Vetter had a team of 30 support workers looking after him around the clock.Baylor College of Medicine Photo Archives

Vetter's condition, and his treatment, made him famous around the world, but he was only known publicly as "David the boy in the plastic bubble" to protect his family's privacy.

At the time, doctors assumed Vetter would "grow out" of SCID by age two, or that he would live in the bubble until a cure was developed. But life in Vetter's habitat wasn't easy.

Vetter kept up with his schoolwork inside the bubble.Baylor College of Medicine Photo Archives

It took round-the-clock attention from a team of 30 support workers at the Texas Children's Hospital to keep David healthy and safe. While they provided him with toys and books, everything (including the air Vetter breathed and the food he ate) had to be sterilized before entering the bubble, which could take up to a week.

Plus, the habitat needed air compressors running constantly to stay inflated, which made Vetter's room so noisy he could barely speak to anyone.

But as David grew older, he was actually able to explore the world outside his bubble.

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