4-Her’s quick thinking saved his sister’s pig

4-Her’s quick thinking saved his sister’s pig
Mar 27, 2024

Cameron Swallows designed and 3D printed a prolapse ring

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

When his 15-year-old sister Brooke’s pig, Hank, was in trouble, Cameron Swallows, an 11-year-old member of the Grow ‘Em and Show ‘Em Florida 4-H club, came to the rescue.

“We were coming from school, and we were going to feed the pigs and found out (Hank) had a prolapsed rectum,” Cameron told Farms.com.

Cold stress, transport stress and severe coughing or straining caused by constipation or other obstructions are among the possible causes for the condition, Iowa State University’s College of Veterinary says.

If left untreated, a pig may develop rectal stricture. This means the prolapse resolves, but remaining scar tissue forms a ring of constricting tissue that blocks the rectum.

This can be fatal to pigs.

The family’s veterinarian came the next day to attend to Hank but didn’t have a proper-sized prolapse ring.

These devices are inserted into the pig and secured with elastrator rings. The prolapse rings cause the prolapse to fall off and the tube functions as a rectum.

With time of the essence, Cameron spent the next few hours designing and using his Bambu Labs 3D printer to create a prolapse ring that would fit Hank’s needs.

“It was my first time designing anything. It took me about three hours to design and another hour to print,” he said. “I had to figure out the size and measurements. It was really hard, but I was really happy it worked because I didn’t want my sister’s pig to die.”

Prolapse ring design

He designed a two-inch by 3-inch ring. Cameron added different colors to the ring that helped the vet know when the pig was ready to let it go.

And since then, Cameron has printed additional rings for vets to use.

People who know Cameron aren’t surprised by his ingenuity or his desire to help.

He’s always shown those two traits, said his mom, Alex.

“He’s a big-hearted kid,” she told Farms.com. “And since he’s been younger, he’s always been interested in taking things apart, figuring them out and putting them back together. He did that with a table fan as a toddler.”

Cameron’s family isn’t a farming family.

But they enrolled him and Brooke in 4-H because they expressed an interest in it.

“Whenever our kids say they’re interested in something, we dive right in,” Alex said. “Brooke wanted to show a pig three years ago and that’s where we learned it. Cameron’s friends have done it too and so he wanted to try it.”

Cameron, Brooke and Hank
Cameron, Brooke and Hank (University of Florida photo).

The pigs are kept in the family’s backyard.

Their experience in 4-H has been positive as it teaches them multiple life skills, Alex said.

“The kids really do everything when it comes to the pig, from feeding to cleaning,” she said. “They have to keep records on it and be organized and accountable. These are great life lessons that they can carry with them as they get older.”

Not yet a teenager, the video gamer and golfer already identified his career path.

He wants to be an orthopedic surgeon.

That interest came from witnessing an injury.

“A kid at my school broke his arm and I wanted to help him,” he said. “And I want to be able to help other people.”

Orthopedic surgeons are already using 3D printed materials.

“Having a 3D print is invaluable for surgical planning and reducing OR time. It’s also very helpful for educating patients about why they need surgery or, in some cases, why they may not,” Alex Dang, an orthopedic surgeon at UC San Francisco, said in an industry interview.

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