EDMONTON — The Force is with this young transplant patient.
Mason Thomas was six when he received a new heart at the Stollery Children's Hospital in Edmonton. He asked to see his damaged one but it was discarded after the surgery.
To help the now eight-year-old understand why he needed a new ticker, experts printed two 3D models of the organ from his CT scans.
One model of the red muscle and its pumps was put inside a tiny TIE Fighter for the young "Star Wars" fan. The fictional space-flying vehicle is used by the Galactic Empire to fight the rebel force in the popular movie franchise.
"It's amazing," Mason said when he was given the models Wednesday.
"They show why my old heart couldn't work and why I needed a new one."
Mason was born with hypoplastic left-heart syndrome, a rare congenital defect. His heart failed after a second surgery and he was on a transplant wait list for more than three years.
Dr. Charles Larson with the hospital's pediatric cardiac intensive care unit came up with the idea for the 3D models.
"This is an anatomically accurate representation of Mason's heart, with colours to help him understand how the blood and oxygen were flowing, and which parts of his heart were too small and failing," he said in a statement.
Larson worked with industrial design students through the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry. Staff and students at an engineering faculty workshop then did the 3D printing.
The team has made 10 heart models so far and plans to make 10 more to be shared with other patients and families as well as with medical students, Larson said.
Mason's mother, Brandie Thomas, said he is a logical kid who likes to know how things work.
"The question of why this happened to him bugs him the most, and seeing the heart helps give him some of the answers of what was wrong with him and why he was so sick."