Space race advances in technology benefited David Vetter throughout his short life. In fact, NASA engineers had built the isolators that kept the young boy's environment germ-free. Then, in 1977, NASA made the five-year-old a custom-made, $50,000 spacesuit. The Mobile Biological Isolation System, which came with a 54-page user's manual, would allow Vetter to leave his plastic bubble for the first time.
On October 21, 1983, David Vetter received a bone marrow transplant from his older sister Katherine. When David was first diagnosed with severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) as a newborn, a transplant from a sibling had seemed like his best hope for survival. That treatment had worked on other SCID-afflicted children. Unfortunately, Katherine's marrow was not an exact match for David's, and he had spent twelve years in plastic isolator bubbles waiting for a compatible donor or a cure for SCID.
Being kept in an isolator bubble for his health held risks for David Vetter's cognitive development. His doctors knew of a recent case involving German twins kept in isolators. Those boys exhibited evidence of retardation, although some symptoms went away after they were released from their bubbles. Many worried that the twins' mental abilities were adversely affected by their time in the bubble. David was watched carefully.
Doctors explained that if the Vetters had another boy, there was a fifty percent likelihood that he would also be afflicted with SCID. Amniocentesis determined that the fetus was indeed male, and the Vetters, devout Catholics, decided to proceed with the pregnancy, albeit with extraordinary measures prepared for the birth.