WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) – Tina Snowfly knew something was not quite right.
“It was just one big lump there. It was different from this side.”
Tina’s primary doctor thought she was just overweight.
But imaging later confirmed — a tumor.
“Still shocked actually.”
A cancerous tumor about the size of a football – growing among major organs.
Dr. Philip Corvo, Chair of Surgery at St. Mary’s Hospital, explains, “The challenge here is that some of the organs that were being pushed were simply being pushed. And other organs that looked like they were being pushed were actually being invaded by the tumor.”
To get a clearer picture – they approached Ben Danker.
“I’ve done backpacks and phone cases but nothing to do with saving lives.”
Danker is a product designer — utilizing 3-D printers.
He says, “I saw the relationship between C-T and 3-D and how the printer actually lays down material layer by layer. This is full scale ”
By feeding CAT scan data into the printer — a 3 dimensional plastic model of the trouble spot was formed.
“What 3-D printing is going to allow you to do,” says Danker, “is going to allow you to get the direct science of that patient.”
It took 20 to 30 hours to produce.
“It’s different, different to see your actual insides and see what it’s about,” says Snowfly.
So Dr. Corvo was better able to safely remove the massive tumor, “This was invading the blood vessels to the kidney and it was actually growing from the muscle outside of a piece of one of her small intestines.”
The future application of 3-D printers?
Danker says, “We will be able to hollow out the vacularity and actually simulate blood flow and Dr. Corvo will actually be able to perform surgery on this model before having to go into a human.”
“I don’t want to think about what would have happened if I just thought it was overweight and not bothered with it.”
Tina is recovering well but still has to undergo radiation.
There’s more to this story.
Doctors used a revolutionary anesthetic technique – to help patients avoid opioid pain medicine after surgery.
They gave Tina an I-V version of Tylenol, which is as potent as morphine, as well as a long-acting Novocaine.
To this day, she only relies on the pill form of Tylenol to manage her pain.