Papers document David Vetter, a Texas boy with a rare disease known as Severe Combined Immune Deficiency. His life in a special isolation unit received widespread publicity.
Scope and Contents:
Papers relating to David Vetter, a Texas boy with a rare disease known as Severe Combined Immune Deficiency. The papers document his and his family's efforts to maintain normalcy in his life in spite of the limitations imposed by his disease, and medical efforts to reduce or cope with the limitations. A special suit was designed for David by NASA scientists to give him mobility, and the papers include documentation of the development and implementation of the suit.
The collection includes letters, greeting cards, photographs, medical records and internal hospital memoranda and documents from the Texas Children's Hospital in Houston, procedure manuals for the isolation unit, specifications for the space suit, David's school records and school art projects, receipts and other financial papers, trade literature for products used in creating the sterile isolation unit, medical journals, newspaper and magazine articles, and clippings. The collection also includes a project created by high school students in 1985 about David's life and legislation to honor David with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
The collection is arranged into seven series.
Series 1: Correspondence and Press, 1971-1985
Series 2: Mobile Biological Isolation System (MBIS), 1973-1983
Series 3: Medical Publications, 1972-1983
Series 4: Personal Papers, 1978-1983
Series 5: Nimitz High School Project, 1985
Series 6: Texas Children's Hospital Medical Records, 1965-1989
Series 7: Photographs, 1974-1983
Biographical / Historical:
David Vetter (1971-1984) was a Texas boy who was born with Severe Combined Immune Deficiency, a disease which required him to live in a sterile, plastic isolation unit. NASA scientists designed and created a special suit for David, which resembled astronauts' space suits. His parents, family, church, doctors, and community all made efforts to enable him to have a normal childhood and life. At age 12, he underwent experimental bone marrow surgery, which was not successful, and David died a few months later. The bone marrow donor, David's sister Katherine, carried a dormant strand of the Epstein-Barr virus which was not detected by the pre-operation screens. He was removed from the bubble in February of 1984 and died 15 days later.
Materials in the Archives Center, National Museum of American History
Shriners Hospital Patient Isolation Unit Records, NMAH.AC.1142
Materials in the Division of Medicine and Science, National Museum of American History
Related objects include action figure toys, a t-shirt, and a space suit. See accessioons: 1986.0201 and 1986.0450.
The collection was donated by David Vetter's parents, David and Carol Ann Vetter in 1986.
Collection is open for research but is stored off-site and special arrangements must be made to work with it. Some health-related materials in Series 3: Medical Publications, Series 6: Texas Children's Hospital Medical Records, and Series 7: Photographs are restricted until 2034. Contact the Archives Center for information at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-633-3270.
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.