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Doctors use 3D printer to save baby's life

At Children's Hospital of Atlanta, a baby boy is breathing a lot easier, thanks to a life-saving procedure involving a 3D printing machine.

Eight-month-old Amir is sleeping peacefully and breathing easy now, something he couldn't do when he was born.

"He was just a baby that, he would always cry," said his mom, Linda Long. "So we knew something was wrong with him, but we didn't know exactly what was wrong with him."

What Linda and Quantavious didn't know is that their son was born with flimsy airways and two holes in his heart. One day, at just 2 months old, Amir stopped breathing.

"That's my baby," said Long. "Don't know what to do but, I wanted to help him but I couldn't."

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Amir was rushed to Children's Hospital of Atlanta, to a team that knew they needed to work fast.

"The child at the time was about as sick as you possibly can be," said Dr. Kevin Maher, a pediatric cardiologist. "He was on a ventilator, sedated, medication to keep him paralyzed." 

Maher, a team of doctors, technicians and even engineers from Georgia Tech got involved, and came up with a big plan to help their tiny patient. They used a 3D printer to make small custom splints to repair his airways.

"They were able to use sutures to pull the airway open and then attach it to this custom made splint to hold the airway open," Maher said.

Then, they patched the holes in his heart. 

"The difference from the morning to the night was one of the most dramatic things I've seen in medicine," Maher said.

Doctors had to get rush FDA approval, as it was the first time this type of technology and surgery have ever been used in Georgia.

"It was really one of the more stunning things I've seen in my career," Maher said, "to take a child that was that sick and to really provide a treatment that otherwise did not exist."

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A treatment that has mom and dad looking forward to Amir's future.

"Hopefully we can get him home and eating and just like a regular baby," said Long. 

Doctors say Amir's prognosis looks good. The splints will stay in until the airways are strong enough to stay open on their own. Even though they had to get rush FDA approval for this surgery, Maher hopes one day it will be widely available.

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