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Video rewind: 'Bubble Boy' 30 years later

  • David Vetter literally lived in a bubble his whole life
  • Due to a rare medical condition, he couldn't be exposed to germs
  • He passed away after an unsuccessful bone marrow transplant in February 1984

David Vetter, aka "Bubble Boy," was born in 1971 with a rare hereditary disorder called severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID). He could not be exposed to any germs or he would die. Immediately after his birth, he was placed in a plastic bubble that Texas Children’s Hospital constructed. He lived within a plastic bubble his whole life. 

NASA made a suit for Vetter that allowed him to leave his bubble so he could see the outside world. He went to a movie and even watered his family’s lawn, but the majority of his time was spent within a plastic room.

A bone marrow transplant could help people with his condition, but he didn’t have a successful match. Doctors decided to do a transplant anyway with his sister’s unmatched marrow. The surgery was a success at first, but Vetter later died due to a hidden virus inside the bone marrow that infected him. Vetter lived to be 12 years old. He died on February 22, 1984.

Since 1984, doctors have developed better ways to deal with SCID, and many kids with the disorder can now live a normal life. By using blood samples from Vetter, scientists were able to help cure the disorder by isolating and altering the SCID gene.

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