The Boy in the Bubble

Born with Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID), a disorder preventing the immune system from working, David Vetter, or ‘The Boy in the Bubble’, became famous during his short life for living in a completely sterile environment. At the time this was the only option for children born with SCID until a bone marrow transplant could be performed. 

Ten seconds after being born David was placed inside a specially sterilised chamber, where he would remain, for the most part, for the rest of his life. It had been expected that a David’s sister would donate bone marrow, however, she was not a match. Everything that entered the cocoon had to be first sterilised in a chamber of ethylene oxide at 60˚C for four hours before being aerated for seven days. David was touched only through plastic gloves that lined the walls of the cocoon. 

He was given as normal a life as possible, with a formal education and access to television, although on one occasion he complained: “Why school? Why did you make me learn to read? What good will it do? I won’t ever be able to do anything anyway. So why?"His condition was explained to him when, at four years old, he realised he could poke holes in his cocoon.

As David grew so did the cocoon and, as he longed to explore what he saw out of the window and on TV, a transport chamber and an additional cocoon at his parents’ home were built. On one occasion he attended a screening of Return of the Jedi at a local cinema in his transport chamber. Furthermore, researchers at NASA constructed a suit that would allow David to walk around more freely, though David was somewhat resistant to using it.

Due to a lack of proper human contact David’s behaviour grew increasingly erratic. As he entered his teens he became angry and depressed and was perpetually anxious about germs, experiencing repeated nightmares about ‘The King of Germs’. The case raised numerous ethical questions, the government discussed cutting funding for research into finding a cure, and public support lacked.

Then, in 1983, the doctors that had initially encouraged David’s parents to have David in the first place, proposed to give him an unmatched bone marrow transplant. Initially it seemed that transplant had gone well, and there was hope that David might be able to leave the bubble, however, a few months later David became sick for the first time in his life; suffering diarrhea, fever, severe vomiting and intestinal bleeding. David had to be taken out of the bubble for treatment. Out of the bubble, he worsened and sank into a coma. His mother was able to touch his skin for the first and last time. He died on February 22, 1984 aged 12.

[Written with help from this article and Wikipedia]

[Image Sources: 1 : 2 : 3 : 4]

David Phillip Vetter (September 21, 1971 – February 22, 1984) was a boy from Shenandoah, Texas, United States who suffered from a rare genetic disease now known as severe combined immune deficiency syndrome (SCID). Forced to live in a sterile environment, he became popular with the media as the boy in the plastic bubble. He spent most of his life inside a special bubble-like structure at Texas Children’s Hospital. He died in 1984, at the age of 12, after a bone marrow transplant from his sister.


David Vetter was born without a thymus gland. He couldn’t make mature T cells or activate B cells. Because of this, he spent most of his life in a sealed bubble, away from the outside bacteria and possible infections that he could receive. 

As he began reaching adolescence, he desperately wanted to leave the bubble. Unlike normal children, he couldn’t play in the sand box without his friends without wearing a bubble suit. He couldn’t properly enjoy his childhood. After receiving a bone marrow transplant, he left the bubble. It didn’t work and within the days of his freedom, he began vomiting and developed diarrhea. He soon died afterwards. 

This sad story only shows us how lucky some of us are to be born without mutations or strange diseases that take over our lives. We should be thankful for every limb, every new day that we live, every healthy organ in our body and that we don’t have to live in a bubble our entire lives. 

You need to read this

I am sorry but all I want to do right now is puke all the contents of my stomach. At first it was because of some medical stuff I read. However, now it’s because of the things I read under the FTM tag. It’s just so horroribe sometimes and especially when it’s from young FTM boys. People have gone as far as to rather have a dead daughter than a Transgender son. Let me tell you something, yesterday I was reading about a young boy called David Vetter also known as the bubble boy. His parents and doctors fought tooth and nail to keep David alive as long as they could. When I am not researching information on queer youth I am looking up medicine. I have read and watch all these stories of children at death’s door or who can’t lead an otherwise normal life because of how nature made them and one thing is similar in almost all the stories. Their families were grateful to have them for as long as they did, challenges and all. There are people who would do anything in the world for a heathly child who they can love. Yet as I have read they are people whining about saying “ oh, but you were born a girl”, “ oh, you are just crazy” or “ you need the church” and etc. While in reality they should be happy that they can hug their son and watch him grow. The Vetters can’t do that; their son David is dead. The families of all these baby boys who died of SCIDS before the advancements of medicine can only dream of what their boys could have become. While these families of Transguys have boys who can still give them a hug, that they can see get married, that can be there to nurse their parents in old age. Like what I keep saying, people need to just stop whining atleast long enough to see how the world has actually blessed them.