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Immersive Virtual Reality Treatment Room Changes Chemo Experience for Kids with Cancer

In Naples, Florida, children battling cancer are receiving their chemotherapy while traveling to outer space, going on a deep sea diving adventure or being immersed inside a video game.

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It’s all thanks to a new virtual reality treatment room, located at Lee Health’s Golisano Children’s Health Center.

Inside the innovative treatment room, the walls are covered by floor-to-ceiling projections to give kids a 270-degree immersive experience while they undergo chemotherapy treatments. Children are able to choose from different backdrops, such as the beach, space or underwater, and then be completely immersed in their surroundings. The virtual experience also includes sounds and interactive elements. For example, in the space setting, kids can hit a button on the screen to interact with the astronaut, including making him dance.

Children like 8 year-old Edwin Garcia who once hated chemo appointments now enjoy going to them.

“It has been like night and day for Edwin. He gets so excited going to his chemotherapy now,” said Keiry Flores, Edwin’s mother. “It’s amazing what this room does and just how life-like it is. I’ll never forget the first time he used the immersion room. They had the beach scene up and it’s like he forgot where he really was. He took off his shirt and settled in for his chemo. I couldn’t believe it!”

The goal of the room is to create a soothing atmosphere to help make the 2-to-6-hour chemotherapy treatments more comfortable for children. In addition to the different experience choices, kids can also use the room to watch movies, play video games or video chat with friends and family while receiving their treatment.

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“Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida provides a variety of specialized services to take care of our community’s children,” said Dr. Larry Antonucci, president and chief executive officer of Lee Health. “Children deserve innovative care in an environment that soothes anxiety and fear, and that’s what this virtual reality immersion room does. We’re proud to be able to offer this kind of technology to our community.”

Golisano Children’s Health Center is an extension of Golisano Children’s Hospital, which is the only children’s hospital in Southwest Florida. Golisano Children’s Hospital is located in Fort Myers.

The opening of the immersive treatment room took place earlier this year and is part of a comprehensive expansion of pediatric health care services at Golisano Children’s Health Center.

In addition to the immersion room, Lee Health is bringing an array of new and expanded services to the Naples clinic aimed at keeping families close to home for their medical care. This expansion will provide greater access and shorter wait times for pediatric services like cardiology, neurology, mental health, developmental disorders, outpatient surgery and ophthalmology, among others.

Golisano Children’s Hospital partnered with local company d3 Creative Studio in the development and design of the immersion room.

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