If you watch the nightly news, you are probably inundated with stories of murders, robberies, and just about everything else that is wrong with this world. Those are the stories which grab our attention, hence attracting the viewership that main stream media usually seeks. The world isn’t the bad place that the news makes it out to be. In fact, there are loving, caring individuals, some of whom would take the shirts off of their backs for complete strangers. This was certainly the case for several individuals who were able to successfully utilize 3D printing to aid in helping one 4-year-old little boy regain his independence.
Back in September of 2013, a two-year-old little boy named Anthony, underwent surgery to remove a large brain tumor. During the surgery, a portion of Anthony’s brain was removed unfortunately leaving him him without the ability to see. This past March, Anthony, now 4, finished his final round of chemotherapy and next month he finds out if he is able to stay off of the chemo for good. Anthony is a fighter, and so is his mother Cierra Brettnacher, who has stood by her son and has gone out of her way to make his life and his recovery as pleasant as can be.
Anthony’s recovery undoubtedly includes plenty of rehab, but it’s also the small thing in life that Anthony will need to get reacquainted to. One example is the one simple task of eating and feeding himself. Eating can actually be quite tricky without the ability to see exactly where your utensil is in relation to your mouth. However, Anthony’s therapist’s office found a solution in a particular spoon that they had on hand. The only problem though, was that this spoon which was the perfect curvature and length that Anthony required, was the only spoon of it’s kind that they had.
Anthony’s mom Cierra, decided to take to Facebook, determined to find out where she could get her hands on one of these special spoons. Her search pretty much turned up empty, with the exception of one man, named Wayne Whitworth, who was a former U.S. Marine, and also a friend of her father.
“As a Marine, we don’t leave anyone behind,” explained Whitworth. “I’ve never met Anthony but he is a remarkable little boy. I decided to post the picture on my Facebook page and ask my friends how I could get this spoon. I probably got 1,500 responses from people all over the U.S. and as far as Australia who were looking for this spoon. The response I received was tremendous.”
Again, Whitworth didn’t find much luck though, so he decided to contact Anthony’s therapist to see if he could borrow the spoon in order to take measurements and photographs.
“She let me keep it for one week and I got to work, taking tons of pictures and measuring every angle with calipers to show length, width and height,” explained Whitworth.
One of Whitworth’s colleagues then mentioned something about 3D printing to him. Not having all that much knowledge of the technology, Whitworth hit Google, searching around until he realized that a local UPS Store, located in Louisville, KY actually offered 3D printing as a service.
After meeting with Debbie Adams, the franchisee of the store, a light bulb went off in Whitworth’s head. 3D printing would be able to create a one-off design for a 3D printed eating utensil that would match all of the specifications that Anthony required. Debbie, working with her designer Doug Seelbach was able to take all of the photographs and measurements that Whitworth had gathered and recreate a 3D model of the spoon.
Everything seemed perfect until they realized that they couldn’t find FDA-approved, food-safe material to 3D print the spoon with. Doug and Debbie went back to the drawing board though, and came up with a new design which would just be for a 3D printed handle for the eating utensil. This handle would be compatible with disposable eating utensils, which actually was a step up from the original spoon that Anthony’s therapist initially showed him. This handle would mean that not only could Anthony eat with a specially designed spoon, but he could also remove the spoon portion and replace it with a fork.
In the end, Doug ended up making two handles, one specifically for the fork, and one for the spoon, with individual markings on the handles so that Anthony could tell which was which.
“Debbie’s designer, Doug, did a really great job creating the file,” explained Whitworth. “And Debbie is a remarkable lady. She never gave up. She does not quit. I had tears in my eyes when I picked up the spoon. I tried to pay her and her designer that day but they refused to take my money. I asked for the designer’s address to send him a check and he wouldn’t even give it to me. I wish I could do something to repay them.”
The final design was just about perfect, thanks to a group volunteers which included Wayne Whitworth, and the amazing folks at his local UPS Store.
There has been a gofundme campaign set up to help Anthony’s family pay for his medical expenses. If you can, feel free to donate a little bit of money to this wonderful cause.
What do you think about this tremendous story? Discuss in the 3D Printed Spoon for Anthony forum thread on 3DPB.com.