Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

'Bubble boy' doctor enjoys retirement

PNT Staff Writer

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Dr. Mary Ann South, a doctor best known for her work on the team that brought to life the “Bubble Boy” in 1971, is no longer involved in the hustle and bustle of the medical field. She said she enjoys her retirement with friends and family in Portales.

“I love it here,” South said. “I love my house, friends and family. I traveled too much. This is where I was born and where I went to high school. I can’t imagine being anywhere else.”

South’s roots go back to the time of the Depression, when her father moved to Portales in the 1920s. South was born in 1933 in Portales and her older sister was born on “Black Monday,” the day the market crashed in 1929.

“We used to have beggars come up to our house and work for food,” South said. “People had trouble finding employment. My father would give them a slab of bread after they did a job.”

South, now 70, graduated from Portales High School in 1951. She attended Baylor University for two years, before returning to Portales to attend Eastern New Mexico University. South graduated from ENMU in 1955 with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry.

She is best known in the medical community as a member of the team that delivered a baby boy named David Demaret straight from the womb into a germ-free environment.

“He is the first and last boy that I know of that was born and raised in an isolator,” South said. “There isn’t a need for the isolator (now) because of advancements in the field of bone marrow transplants.”

David was called the “boy in the bubble” by the media. There have been two movies about him since he was born in 1971.

“The Boy in the Plastic Bubble” came out in 1976 and starred John Travolta; the other was called “Bubble Boy,” and came out in 2001.

David suffered from a T(thymus)-cell deficiency which leaves the immune system vulnerable. David exited the bubble on occasions with a NASA astronaut suit especially made for him. David died at age 12 during an unsuccessful bone marrow transplant operation.

“We got together with NASA before he (was born),” South said. “NASA made suits for their astronauts in case there were any germs that we didn’t know about on the moon. David would wear the suit for three or four hours. He enjoyed it, but he couldn’t do many things like eat, drink or go to the bathroom.”

South received her medical degree from the Baylor University College of Medicine in Houston. She studied pediatric infectious diseases at Baylor and studied pediatric immunology at the University of Minnesota.

South no longer practices medicine and devotes much of her time to her house. South also moved back to Portales due to her health conditions and the doctor advised the climate would be the best suited for her.

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