CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - For many children undergoing treatment at the Levine Children’s Hospital, the road to getting healthy can be a scary process.
The hospital is working to make medical procedures less stressful for kids by distracting them with engaging virtual reality.
The introduction of new virtual reality technology gives patients the ability to literally take their minds off of lengthy and many times, intense treatment procedures.
Made possible by a grant from Northwestern Mutual, children can now have virtual experiences while undergoing medical operations at Levine Children’s.
The program is called KindVR, a virtual reality therapy specifically developed to help ease the pain and stress of medical conditions by presenting an alternate game world designed to help children relax.
For 12-year-old Grayson Brooks, diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis as a baby, the VR technology has been a game changer.
Children pop on goggles and are suddenly in another head space. Grayson was scuba-diving as he was having his port accessed, Levine Children’s showed in a Facebook post.
“I usually am wincing because it hurts so much,” said Brooks. “But with the VR this time, it was like, ‘Are you done yet?’ And [the nurses] say, ‘I’ve been done. I’ve just been watching you play.’”
Brooks is referring to a process that brings him to the hospital constantly. He has to have his port cleaned regularly by nurses because his illness causes a thick mucus to build up in his system, making it harder for his body to fight off infections.
“Often times, kids have to have procedures that (understandably) cause anxiety and stress. But now, our Levine Children’s Hospital patients can travel to a far away land while the doctors and nurses work their magic, making the experience much more pleasant and even fun!” Levine Children’s posted.
“WHAT A GREAT IDEA!!!!!! I am so impressed by this atraumatic care. So cool!” Ashley Jarrett posted.
The process has been a difficult one in the past, even for Grayson’s parents, Tim and Beth Brooks, who have had to remain calm while facing their child’s fear and distress.
“It’s a dramatic, stressful situation, not just for him but for us as parents because we feel like we’re forcing him to do something he doesn’t want to do,” said Beth. “And for the nurses because they don’t want to hurt their patient but he’s in there screaming and crying.”
Andrea Westmoreland, a Certified Child Life Specialist with Levine, noticed Grayson’s difficulty with the process and helped the family schedule an appointment with the new technology.
It yielded drastically different results.
"Without it, it took 25 minutes,” she said. “But then, a week later, we go back in there and have it all set up. And it all took about 3 minutes.”
With little to no complaints for the 12-year-old gamer. Westmoreland says those results have been consistent with other patients.
Inside the VR world, patients are able to deep sea dive and swim with exotic fish. The game allows players to interact with the world; everywhere they look, there is a new aquatic gem to see and touch.
And the program is a full, virtual reality experience; goggles over the eyes, headphones over the ears. All while nurses and doctors do their best work to keep the children healthy,
“I’ve been in the field for 15 years and this was not something to even think about back then,” said Westmoreland. “And I feel like they get excited and it truly reduces the stress and anxiety.”
Westmoreland says the KindVR has also been used in the hospital’s in the Hematology and Oncology clinic, Neurology clinic, and more.
Right now, Levine only has three of the virtual reality sets, a value of $13,000 total, funded by a grant from Northwestern Mutual.
Levine Children’s Hospital is working on obtaining more.
Meanwhile, patients like Grayson say they’re thankful that the KindVR can be their new reality as they work to get well.
“With the VR set on, my mind is distracted by looking at all of the oceans and animals and everything,” said Grayson. “I think it’s up there with my XBOX.”
Visit KindVR’s website fore more information on the virtual technology.
Atrium Health’s Levine Children’s Hospital was recently named a best children’s hospital by U.S. News & World Report. The hospital has been highly ranked and recognized for years.
“For the 12th year in a row, Levine Children’s Hospital is recognized by U.S. News & World Report for our specialty care,” Atrium Health said. “Named the only Best Children’s Hospital in Charlotte, we always give our best so patients can be theirs.”
Levine Children’s says the hospital ranked in seven specialties, which is more than ever before. Those categories include:
2. Cardiology and heart surgery
3. Gastroenterology and GI surgery
6. Neurology and neurosurgery
Levine Children’s posted about the recent ranking on Facebook, calling it the “best news ever!”
Atrium Health’s Levine Children’s Hospital, located at 1000 Blythe Boulevard, provides prevention and wellness services for children. Click here to learn more about the range of conditions Levine Children’s treats.