When Kaiba Gionfriddo was born prematurely on Oct. 28, 2011, everything seemed relatively normal. At 35 weeks, his doctors’ main concern was lung development, but Kaiba was breathing just fine. Doctors deemed him healthy enough to send him home within a few days.
Six weeks later, while the Gionfriddo family — parents April and Bryan, and two older siblings — were eating dinner at a restaurant, Kaiba stopped breathing and turned blue. After 10 days in the hospital and another incident, physicians diagnosed the infant with severe tracheobronchomalacia; his windpipe was so weak that his trachea and left bronchus collapsed, preventing crucial airflow from reaching his lungs. So Kaiba underwent a tracheostomy and was put on a ventilator, the typical treatment for his condition.
It didn’t work. Almost daily, Kaiba would stop breathing and his heart would stop. The prognosis wasn’t good. So his doctors tried something revolutionary: a 3D-printed lung splint that could save his life.