By Andrew Wheeler
3-year-old Han Han was born with congenital hydrocephalus that caused a build up of fluid to swell her brain and head to four times the normal size. Without treatment, she was at risk not only of having her head explode, but of going blind and even of having her brain infested by maggots, not to mention the damage that the pressure of excess fluid puts on the brain and the difficulty of a three-year-old having a head that ways more than half of her body weight. In fact, Han Han had been confined to her bed for almost a year before doctors came up with a solution: to 3D print a new skull and drain the excess fluid. Soon, she became the first human being to have their entire skull reconstructed using 3D printing technology.
Han Han’s mother left her when she was only a year old, so it was up to her father, Chen Youzhi, to come up with the money to pay for the operation. He had already been scrambling to make enough money to buy Han Han’s anti-inflammatory medication, so this was no minor task. This kind of operation is revolutionary, but it is certainly not cheap. The total cost for the surgery was estimated at anywhere from 400,000-500,000 yuan ($64,000 to $81,000). Han Han’s family was able to raise 100,000 yuan, but relied on the kindness of strangers to donate the rest of the money through online donations.