3D-Printed Medical Implant Restores Bone Shattered by Bullet

June 04, 2024

Darian Simon Cyril Mauffrey Denver Health X Ray
Watch Darian Simon's journey to recovery at Denver Health after his thigh bone was "disintegrated" by a bullet.

The Shooting

It was the worst day of Darian Simon's life. In June of 2020, on a Wednesday morning during the COVID-19 pandemic, Simon and his girlfriend, Isabella "Bella" Thallas, took his dog for a short walk outside his apartment near Coors Field in downtown Denver.

"Before I knew it, two windows in an apartment behind me went up really fast." Simon turned around and remembered seeing a man in the apartment staring at him. "I looked at him, and you could just see it in his eyes, no good. And so I remember getting like 15 feet away from him. I turned back around, and he's crouched down and holding his posture like he's holding something big."

The man, who was reportedly upset over a training command Simon and Thallas used with their dog, aimed a rifle at the couple and fired. Both of them, and the dog were shot. Thallas and the dog died.

Am I Going to Die?

"The next thing I remember is it felt like I was waking up on the boxing mat," Simon recalled. Denver Health Paramedics rushed him to Denver Health with bullet injuries to both sides of his lower body. He lost 75% of his blood volume. Simon remembers asking one of the paramedics if he was going to die. "They told me, 'Not here, not at Denver Health.' His worst injury was to his right thigh bone or femur – the bullet had destroyed that bone, known as the longest and strongest bone in the body.

World-Class Expert Care

"Because we deal with the most severe of injuries, our surgeons have developed real expertise in dealing with the hardest of the hardest cases," Denver Health Orthopedics Chair Cyril Mauffrey, MD said. Dr. Mauffrey operated on Simon backed by his expert Orthopedic trauma team. "His femur bone had disintegrated. We 3D printed a cage, which is a modern plastic implant that goes in the middle of his thigh bone to contain all the bone graft that ends up filling that void."

Orthopedic Trauma Darian Simon
Darian Simon reunites with Denver Health Orthopedic Chair Cyril Mauffrey, MD, nearly four years after his initial injury.

Darian's Recovery

"When I look back at it, it felt like if I had been brought to any other hospital in the area, I don't believe I'd be here right now," said Simon. His journey to recovery wasn't easy - a metal implant put in initially ended up breaking, but he made a phone call to Dr. Mauffrey and the Denver Health Orthopedics team got him back on the right track. Simon now has a nail, a plate, that 3D plastic cage and bone graft that is integrated in his thighbone.

"Darian has been the best possible patient in terms of putting the effort into healing his injuries and getting back to where he needed to get back to, and enjoy his life, his business, his family and it’s been a privilege to take care of him," Dr. Mauffrey said. 

"Aside from the physical journey at Denver Health, I'm thankful for the behavioral health that I've also received at Denver Health," Simon continued. "I have a team of professionals like I did in orthopedics, which helped because I had no idea some of the things that were holding me back mentally that change the physical structure of your healing."

Simon said he felt safe and in good hands with the care teams at Denver Health. Even when things didn't look great for him, physically or mentally, Simon said he always heard people telling him, "We got you."

He is confident in recommending Denver Health to others, whether it's for routine care or something as serious and life changing as he went through.

"When you go through something really traumatic and you come to terms with a near death experience, I think to myself, 'I could have been gone yesterday.' So tomorrow's a blessing."