How sick children get to escape without leaving Ann Arbor hospital

Patients at C. S.Mott Children's Hospital get to experience virtual reality

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Children at C.S. Mott Children's Hospital are getting a chance to go on an adventure without ever leaving the hospital.

Game Start School in Ann Arbor is working with children at the hospital teaching them how to program their own video games.  During a visit they brought an Oculus Rift with them and gave children the virtual reality experience of riding a roller coaster.

Makaela Mongo, whose cancer is in remission, loved the experience, especially the loopty-loop parts of the ride.  Her mother liked that it gave her daughter a chance to feel normal.

"It makes me feel great, it makes me feel great that she can still, you know, feel and live like a normal kid, like she was before," said Carman Richison, Makaela's mom.

J.J. Bouchard, digital media manager for C.S. Mott Children's hospital, said that's the goal of programs like this, to give sick children in the hospital normal experiences.

"They're usually really enthusiastic about it.  I mean when you put the headsets on you really do feel like you're in a different space. It tricks your brain in a certain way that it feels like you're outside. It feels like you're in new environment," said Nate Aschenbach, technical director and co-owner of Game Start School.

Local 4 was there as children of all ages tried the Oculus Rift and everyone seemed to like it.

"This is like so realistic that it's kind of unbelievable that this is even possible,  Teryn Sova, 18, a patient. "I do not think about going on a roller coaster when I go to the hospital because you normally have IVs in and stuff like that, so if you're able to have IVs and go on a roller coaster ride, I think that's pretty amazing."

The experience distracts patients from the reasons they're in the hospital, if even for just a short while.

"All because of this one little device just changed their entire day and their entire experience of the hospital, something that could have been a very negative experience, that would have a negative impact for them for their entire lives, is now one of the most positive things they've ever done," Bouchard said.

Game Start School offers camps and classes and uses game play to inspire interested in art, math, science and programming. For more information, click here.


About the Author: