David Vetter Had To Live His Whole Life in Quarantine

Andrei Tapalaga


David Vetter at the age of 5 in 1976 (Source: Life Magazine)

Every pandemic that humanity has seen has forced people to quarantine/isolate themselves from the world in order to reduce the spread of such a virus and to also protect their own health from the risks of such dangerous viruses and plagues. We have all had it rough during the Covid-19 pandemic, but imagine yourself being forced by a very rare condition to spend your whole life in quarantine.

The Bubble Boy

That was the devastating fate of David Vetter, also nicknamed “The Bubble Boy” because he had to live his life in a germ-free plastic bubble. The very rare condition which had him live in such conditions was severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID). In other words, David had no such thing as an immune system, therefore his body would not be able to combat even a very simple flu, always putting his life at high risk, especially around other people who can carry germs, but those germs do not affect the average person as they have a working immune system.


David Vetter at the age of 1 in 1972 (Source: Life Magazine)

In 1971, David was born and diagnosed with SCID, this required the doctors to put him in an incubator in order to keep him away from any germs, as the boy grew up he was moved in with his parents inside an isolated plastic cube with sealed ports that allowed his parents to play with him or change him as well as feed him. As David grew up, his parents tried to explain his situation, and David with a lot of understanding and courage accepted to live in such a unique circumstance whilst being a very happy boy.


David Vetter in his quarantined Buble at the age of 12 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

David took part in all the family activities that were going on inside the home, this included celebrating all various holidays and playing with his siblings such as his brother and sister which helped him live a better life. His parents were actively looking for some sort of cure or at least a solution that would help David live a more “normal” life or at least a better childhood, in other words, an invention that would allow him to go outside.

This is where NASA came to help. You see, astronauts have their suits fully isolated in order to protect the astronauts in outer space from various dangers such as micrometeoroids or losing oxygen in space. Therefore NASA made out a sort of astronaut suit that would allow David to go outside without a major risk of getting any germs. This is what made David very famous, with media outlets sharing his story worldwide.

A possible cure

After 2 years, David received from NASA a special Bubble that would allow him better mobility and comfort whilst being safer with better isolation from other organisms. At the same time, due to the high publicity, many Doctors from around the world were interested in knowing more about this rare condition. This is where a large group of medics from the World Health Organisation (WHO) gathered to determine that receiving a bone marrow transfusion may reverse the condition, allowing David’s organism to build antibodies that would give him an immune system.

David received the bone marrow transfusion in 1984, however, after 4 months from this procedure he had died from lymphoma, which is a type of cancer that had introduced David’s system before receiving the aiding bone marrow, by a virus called Epstein-Barr virus.

This boy had to live his whole life under quarantine. We are not just talking stuck in the house but stuck in a bubble for so many years. I hope that this story will change your perspective on the difficulty of the current quarantine and that it will motivate you to respect the restrictions set in place by different governments as well as by WHO (World Health Organisation).

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