Scores of patients at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital will now have access to personal entertainment systems in their rooms.
On Friday, the hospital celebrated the launch of the Mott Family Network Pediatric Gaming Project, which aims to use Xbox 360 and Xbox Live to provide recreational and therapeutic experiences for patients. So far, 225 rooms are set up with the Xbox 360 consoles.
The Mott Golf Classic and the Mott Family Network, two nonprofit organizations with the mission of advancing pediatric medicine and improving patient and family care, funded a large portion of the project. The project’s initial budget was almost $500,000, but with donations from the two organizations, the project only cost about $100,000 of hospital funds.
The project began as a smaller pilot program last year, with 32 Xbox consoles in the Hematology/Oncology unit at the hospital. Jean-Jacques Bouchard, a child life specialist, said Mott saw a need to implement the gaming system hospital-wide to meet the recreational, educational and therapeutic needs of the hospital’s patients.
Bouchard said the Xbox gaming system allows patients to be treated like normal kids because they can interact with their family and friends online — even when they are at the hospital.
“People who are playing with the patients online have no idea if (the patients) are at the hospital or at home,” Bouchard said. “The patients are treated just like normal kids. That is one of the biggest benefits of Xbox being in their rooms.”
Krystal Sweet, whose son is a patient at Mott, said the games help her son endure his treatments by allowing him to focus on something more enjoyable.
“The games help with the treatments because they help distract him from the pain and makes time go faster for him,” Sweet said.
Sweet added that having the Xbox in the room is nice because she and her son can use it to watch movies too, not just play games.
Bouchard said since the Xbox can play CDs and DVDs too, some parents also use the system to make a recording of their voices for their kids.
“Our music therapist will record the parents’ voices (on a CD) so if the parents can’t be by the bedside all the time, the CD will be put into the Xbox and the kids can listen to it,” Bouchard said.
Engineering junior Anna Dai, who was involved with this project since last year, said she was got involved after taking an entry-level computer engineering course called “Gaming for the Greater Good” with David Chesney, a lecturer in computer science and engineering. Dai said she jumped at the opportunity because she wanted to use computer science for humanitarian and societal issues.
“I liked the idea of using computer science for something other than just making computers work faster,” she said. “Computer science is powerful and there is so much (computer science) technology that hasn’t been utilized yet. It can be used for humanitarian issues to make an impact on people’s lives.”
In the future, Dai said organizers plan to set up gaming rooms and mobile Xbox carts for patients whose rooms are not equipped with the console, updating the Xbox 360 consoles to Xbox One, and garnering more donations and Xbox games.
LSA senior Efrain Segarra, who was involved with the project at its initial stages, said it took a tremendous amount of effort to develop and implement the initiative, but it was worth it at the end.
“It was amazing to learn about what it takes to develop a project of this magnitude,” Segarra said. “And it was very heartwarming at the end to put in the 32 test units and see how excited all the children were already.”