Cutting edge technology saves baby with rare disease


A little girl who recently celebrated her first birthday is home in Harrisburg for the first time after being treated for a very rare disease.

Ramiah Martin was diagnosed with tracheal agenesis when she was born. She has been at Penn State Children’s Hospital for most of her life.

Born without a trachea or windpipe, Ramiah is one in 100,000. Those are the odds, doctors say, a baby will have her condition, which is usually deadly.

“There are few survivors for this disease, and there were a total maximum of 11 reports in the whole world of survivors,” said Dr. Anthony Tsai, co-director of the Surgical Innovation Group at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

It’s something that shocked and scared her parents at her birth.

“Well, I didn’t tell anyone but my husband, kind of kept to myself, put God in control,” said Leanne Martin, Ramiah’s mom. 

Ramiah’s been in the hospital since birth, but that didn’t stop her family from holding onto hope.

“We put all our faith in God, you know, and sure enough, here it is today and she’s going home,” said Robert Martin, Ramiah’s dad.

That’s thanks to a team of doctors, engineers and radiologists from Penn State Children’s Hospital and other medical centers. 

“What this splint does is support what is eventually a reconstructed airway using her esophagus,” said Tsai.

Ramiah’s case is the first time this 3D printing technology was used to build such a device and successfully implant it.

“We can tell you Ramiah’s case has already made a significant difference in other areas. It catalyzed for us this new initiative called the Advanced Medical Technologies Initiative, which is basically taking advantage of virtual reality and 3D printing in a lot of areas,” said Kevin Harter, of the Penn State Center for Medical Innovation Director. 

Dubbed a miracle child, Ramiah is one of only a handful of children in the world to survive this condition. According to doctors, the oldest known survivor is 3 years old.

Ramiah still depends on a ventilator to help with her breathing and uses a feeding tube. Doctors say the 3D trachea is expected to last until she’s three, at which time, they’ll reassess whether her body will be fine on its own or if she’ll need another one.

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