Fifteen-year-old Jermaine Davis suffers from a blood disease called hemophilia. For him, that means a lot of needles. “I remember when I was little, I hated shots,” he said.
His mother said it would take several nurses to hold him down. But that terror was tamed. Designed at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, virtual reality goggles help patients and the doctors conquer situations like those.
Dr. Amy Dunn said patients like Davis, who need injections daily, can finally face the needle without having to see it. “My patients need to hold still for my infusions so we couldn't have them moving their hands and arms around,” she said.
The virtual world lets the patient control the games by blinking their eyes and blowing air out their noses.
This creates a distraction that allows doctors to do their job. "You are so immersed both visually and auditorily and with the use of your breath that you just forget what's going on around you," Dr. Dunn said.
Total immersion is the goal. Another advantage to the virtual reality is training for doctors.
For example, Dr. Greg Weit is able to grind away bone from a virtual patient. The deeper he digs, the more real it feels due to haptic feedback. “You're actually feeling the bone being removed,” Dr. Weit said.
In the virtual world, when mistakes happen it's done without risk to the patient. “People will always say ‘how do you know this is as good as the real thing?’ And we have to be able to show that,” Dr. Weit said.
That is done by measuring brain waves and skin reactions to a stressful environment. We see a higher cognitive load for the first-year med student because they're trying to not mess up,” Dr. Weit said.