This past week I had the pleasure of meeting with one of our earliest Kickstarter backers, Dr. Greg Sue, who shared with me an inspiring story about his 3D printing journey that I will never forget.
Dr. Sue is an Orthodontist from Rancho Palos Verdes, California who has been working in the field for over 30 years. He is a second generation Chinese-American and comes from a family of medical professionals - his father and both of his brothers are physicians and his wife is a general dentist. Dr. Sue and his wife, Dr. Julie Ito, share a general dental and orthodontic practice in Palos Verdes. The two have two sons and a daughter.
A self-proclaimed early-adopter and evangelist of all things tech, Dr. Sue was among the first Macintosh owners. Naturally, he always kept an eye on Kickstarter to see what new technologies were coming out and became intrigued by our very own ZEUS 3D Printer when the campaign was launched in September of 2013. “I’m very selective with Kickstarter,” Dr. Sue mentioned, telling me of some of the failed projects he had backed before and what he had learned in the process, “I’ve limited myself to only backing Kickstarter projects that are based in the United States, and since you guys were located in Los Angeles, near my home, I felt even more comfortable in backing your project.”
Dr. Sue's interest in 3D printing had been growing since the industry had started to take off- with desktop-size printers becoming more mainstream and affordable. He knew he wanted to get involved in the movement somehow, seeing that it could benefit some of his orthodontic practice. “My original intent was to use the scanning and printing capabilities of ZEUS to archive my orthodontics study models. I had no experience with 3D printers and thought it was really neat. The fact that your device has an easy learning curve was very attractive to me.”
“It was a large investment for me, but I really wanted to dip my feet into the hype,” He continued to explain, “This printer ended up being much more to me than just a printer, however and I think that it came into my life for a reason.
On December 27th, 2014, as Dr. Sue was returning with his family on a Christmas cruise to the Puerto Vallarta, he had a heart attack and went into full cardiac arrest. “I have had no heart problems prior to this,” but he ended up needing to be resuscitated twice by the on-board medical staff. Because of the severity of his medical situation, he had to be airlifted from the cruise ship to the UCSD medical center. He remained thankful that this had happened on the last night of his trip while the ship was close enough to US waters to be taken to San Diego, “There were too many things that could have gone wrong that day.”
During his heart stoppage, about 40% of his heart muscle died and left a large blood clot in that non-functioning part of his heart. After six days at UCSD medical center, he was released to return home. Unfortunately, the story doesn't end there. While recovering at home, part of the blood clot that formed during the heart attack traveled up into his brain, causing a stroke.
“Unfortunately, the blood clot stopped blood flow into the visual cortex part of the brain,” Dr. Sue continued, “I am unable to see 90% of the right visual field in both eyes now.” I can only imagine what that must have felt like for Dr. Sue, someone who had dedicated his whole life to a profession that relied so heavily on visual acuity. This was a terrifying event for Dr. Sue and his family, but he is a faithful Christian and knew that things happen for a purpose.
Following the stroke and hospital recovery, Dr. Sue again returned home the 3rd week of January (2015). Ironically, within one week, his Zeus 3D Printer was delivered. “It was part of the whole plan for me,” Dr. Sue became more enthusiastic as he spoke, “ The timing was perfect because usually you never know when Kickstarter orders will be fulfilled – sometimes they can take years or won’t be fulfilled at all. Now keep in mind, I had no idea that I would have a heart-attack and a stroke when I had ordered this. The ZEUS was a godsend and gave me purpose, like I was opening a new chapter of my life. I had something new I could indulge in to stimulate my mind. ”
He continued to recount his first experiences with the ZEUS, “when I first opened the box, I didn’t know how complicated it would be to use, but it ended up being incredibly simple to set up ... within ten minutes I was already printing stuff,” he continued, “My recovery has been learning to use this 3D printer. It is truly so easy to use, it really is the first premium printer of its kind. I don’t have to know all the complicated set-up, calibration, slicing, and other software procedures that are typical of most 3D printers. I like that it is all built-in on the ZEUS’ computer. ”
Dr. Sue then mentioned that just five months after the heart attack, his daughter was to be married. He and his wife were brainstorming what else they could do to justify the purchase of their 3D printer. Now that he would no longer be working in orthodontics and couldn’t use it for the original intended purpose, he started to see other opportunities and wanted to create something personal for his daughter’s wedding. Mrs. Sue (Dr. Ito) is Japanese-American and brought up the idea of the Japanese tradition of folding 1000 paper cranes for luck and prosperity. They then decided, what better way to make use of their new printer than to create customized cranes for the wedding? The results were beautiful and one-of-a-kind, “they were the perfect centerpieces that I could make that were my very own. I had found a purpose almost immediately.”
Since then, Dr. Sue has been creating and printing non-stop. Using ZEUS has become a creative outlet for him and has really helped him in his recovery process. “People ask me whether I had become depressed after the stroke,” he said, “I tell them no, because God’s given me another purpose in life. Many other doors have been opened. ZEUS has brought me great happiness.” Dr. Sue continued to share with me some of the anecdotes from his past that he believed further connected him to this new opportunity.
Prior to his heart attack, Dr. Sue was also on the part-time faculty in the UCLA School of Dentistry, Orthodontic department, working in the craniofacial anomalies orthodontic clinic. “I was used to working with children with different birth defects and getting to know them. At UCLA, these kids would see many different specialists – plastic surgeons, geneticists, pediatricians, orthodontists, pediatric dentists – but also would work with prosthetics. Many of these children were missing limbs. I am familiar with the shortcomings of children’s prosthetics and think that what you guys have done with the 3d printing of the children’s prosthetics is absolutely amazing. The fact that kids can customize their own prosthetic hand and are excited about it is so impressive, it is really right up my alley since these were the kids I used to work with. The fact that ZEUS will have an app for easy prosthetic customization is so innovative, these kids can print out their own hands at home!”
While Dr. Sue was pursuing his Orthodontic specialization, he also obtained a Master's Degree in Education, also from UCLA. He studied alongside many elementary and secondary school educators and further connected this experience to his path to 3D printing. “I see 3D printing as an essential part of today’s education. The fact that the ZEUS makes it so easy for everyone to learn and use the technology, especially teachers (I know it can be difficult for classrooms to adopt new tech because of the steep learning curve), makes it a necessary component to any school program. I actually spoke with someone, who happens to be an elementary school teacher, at my church about this and she mentioned that her school uses the ZEUS also and enjoys the automation and simplicity of it. They are planning to purchase more in the coming year!”
Dr. Sue has become a huge advocate of our ZEUS All-In-One 3D Printer and Scanner, and of 3D printing in general. His story is so inspiring and shows that it is never too late to pick up new hobbies and challenge yourself even when you are faced with difficulties that are out of your control. We are so thankful that Dr. Sue took the time to share his story with us and hope that it will inspire others to start their own journeys in this awesome technology as well.
Dr. Sue received 10 spools of filament from us as encouragement to keep up the great work. We are excited to see what he will do next with his new skills and are proud to have him as a ZEUS user.