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Magnetic treatment turns boy into Iron Man

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The superhero Iron Man has a magnet implanted in his chest.  Now some kids do too, so they can fight one medical condition.

Chris Simons, an 11-year-old from Georgia, is gaining some superhuman power.  To get it, Chris had to fly to Kansas City.  Inside Children’s Mercy Hospital, he’s getting a custom-made chest plate.  It holds a powerful magnet.  Just like a certain superhero’s.

“I’d thought that’d be awesome.  I’d be like Iron Man,” said Simons.

Or, as his t-shirt says, you can also call him “Magnet Man.”

On x-ray, you see that another magnet has already been implanted in his chest. It’s all about overpowering an enemy named Pectus Excavatum.  Simply put, it’s a sunken-in chest.  The condition affects one in a thousand kids.  It had Simons feeling less than super.

“I ran out of breath a lot faster than all my friends, and I just had a hard time with running,” he said.

“As they grow, and the chest becomes more and more sunken, they find their activities become more and more restricted,” said Dr. Corey Iqbal, Simons’ surgeon at Children’s Mercy.

The standard treatment involves implanting a bar.  It’s painful and requires a week in the hospital.  No stay is needed with the experimental magnet treatment, making it more attractive.  Dr. Iqbal says the internal and external magnets create a force that slowly pulls the chest out.

“And the kids can sort of adjust how much pull they’re getting on their chest so that it’s comfortable,” the surgeon said.

Simons is expected to wear the brace 23 hours a day.

“There’s a temperature and pressure sensor inside the external magnet so we can keep track of how often they’re wearing the brace,” said Dr. Iqbal.

It should give him a normal chest in six to 12 months.  Simons likes his new magnetism.

“Play all of kinds of games with my friends like stick the paper clip.  I like carrying silverware on my chest,” he said.

Iron Man has nothing on this kid.

Children’s Mercy is one of three centers in the world that is testing the treatment.

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