SAN DIEGO (NEWS 8) — When it comes to saving lives, technology plays a huge role and San Diego is on the cutting edge.
Rady Children's Hospital has a unique program using 3-D printed models of children's hearts to help both doctors and patients.
News 8's Shannon Handy had a model of her own heart made and reports on how it all works.
At first glance, Lincoln Matthews appears to be your average five-year-old.
He loves sports - saying basketball is his favorite, with soccer coming in second – his parents and his Kindergarten classmates.
But the reality is Lincoln was born with a heart defect as one in every 100 babies are.
At four days old, he had his first surgery at Rady Children's Hospital and since then has had two others as well as a pacemaker implant.
"He has a very unique heart and the fact that they can make it work to live a normal life is amazing," said Lincoln's mom Kathryn Matthews.
His last surgery in 2015 was his most complicated.
Lincoln's mom was concerned and did some research.
She found out about the benefits of 3-D printed heart models so she asked his cardiac surgeon - Dr. John Lamberti to make him one.
"Turned out we could do it right in our neighborhood," said Dr. Lamberti. "San Diego has an incredible biotech industry and there were multiple sites we could get something like this done."
Since then, Rady Children's has had 30 heart models printed.
Using the technology, a physician can go from evaluating an image of a patient's heart on a screen to holding a lifelike model of it.
Doing so allows doctors to better plan surgeries - even simulating them beforehand.
The models are also used to educate patients about their condition.
"[They are] very helpful and the more complicated the cardiovascular anatomy, the more helpful it is," said Lincoln's cardiologist Dr. Christopher Davis.
The models are made from different materials and can cost from $200 to $1,000.
Wanting to know more, News 8's Shannon Handy went in for an MRI so doctors could make a model of her heart.
Less than a week later Shannon's heart model had been printed and Dr. Sanjeet Hegde - head of the 3-D modeling program---- showed her the results.
"You can see different parts of your heart that are colored differently to be able to identify anatomy more easily," said Dr. Hedge.
He explained it's a four-step process starting with the initial scan where a three-dimensional computer image is created and emailed to a 3-D printing company and then made.
Currently, there are only a handful of children's hospitals nationwide using this technology and insurance doesn't cover it.
Director of cardiac surgery Dr. John Nigro believes that will eventually change saying the models help doctors get through surgery more quickly ultimately cutting down on recovery time and cost.
"We think that every major center should have this resource available," said Dr. Nigro. "The more we know, the better off we are at treating the condition."
For now, the program relies on donations.
As for Lincoln's family, they're forever grateful.
Not just for him, but for the dozens of children his experience - and his mom's tenacity - have been able to help along the way.
"It makes me beam that we're helping other people," said Kathryn Matthews.
A charity run, meals for the needy, a long-running music festival and -- shhh! -- holiday shopping were on tap for Thanksgiving Day in San Diego.
The average price of a gallon of self-serve regular gasoline in San Diego County was at its highest amount on Thanksgiving since 2013 Thursday, despite dropping for 10 consecutive days.
The California Highway Patrol arrested 15 in San Diego County on suspicion of drunken driving, during the first night of its annual Thanksgiving "maximum enforcement period."
The always-heated topic of whether to begin holiday shopping on Thanksgiving Day will be raised again Thursday, as many chain stores will open their doors around San Diego one day before the so-called "Black Friday."
A charity run, meals for the needy, a long-running music festival and holiday shopping are on tap for Thursday's Thanksgiving Day in San Diego.
Your living room often becomes your work space if you work from home. If you have kids, the house can be even more chaotic. Well now, more women are able to take 10-15 steps out of their home and into their "she shed."
Around 60,000 passengers are expected to pass through San Diego's Lindbergh Field daily during the upcoming holiday weekend.