- Thanks to the “I am Ready” project of Nixi for Children and The Ricky Rubio Foundation, the Radiation Oncology Service of Vall d’Hebron has virtual reality so that children can get to know the environment where they will receive treatments and be more relaxed during the sessions.
- In order to have a first-hand knowledge of this problem, professionals from the Radiation Oncology Service and patients and families have participated in the elaboration of the script of the virtual reality video, explaining their experiences.
- Every year more than 80 children are treated in the Radiation Oncology Service. The child attends daily between 4 and 6 weeks to receive radiotherapy treatment. In this sense, preparation before treatment is key to avoid anxiety or fear in children.
For children diagnosed with cancer, radiation therapy can be an unfamiliar and unsettling experience. The aim of “I Am Ready“, a project of Nixi for Children and The Ricky Rubio Foundation to be implemented for the first time at the Hospital Universitari Vall d’Hebron, is to prevent the impact of the disease and treatment from taking its toll on children at a personal and family level.
The aim is to avoid anxiety states and similar disorders suffered by pediatric patients before radiotherapy treatments by means of a preparatory virtual reality experience, which combines real 360º images with a 3D animated character (Nixi). When pediatric patients receive radiation therapy, they are completely alone. It is very common to resort to sedation when they are unable to remain still (especially in patients aged 3 to 6 years). However, in younger children, sedation during radiotherapy can be avoidable, and this is what “I am Ready” wants to achieve.
Avoiding sedation in young children
The possibility of eliminating the fear of children and their family environment can transform radiotherapy into a more natural process thanks to the virtual reality experiences created by Nixi for Children, which are already being applied with clinically proven efficacy in the preoperative rooms of multiple hospitals in Spain. The first center to implement “I am Ready”, focused on radiation oncology treatment, will be the Hospital Universitari Vall d’Hebron, as part of its humanization program.
The design of all the elements of this project has been carried out with the help of patients, ex-patients, their families, professionals of the Radiation Oncology Service of Vall d’Hebron and many other professionals who have volunteered to collaborate. In addition, the hospital has lent its facilities to make the recordings that the children watch with the virtual reality goggles. “It is logical that the children show some anxiety,” explains Dr. Jordi Giralt, head of the Radiation Oncology Service. “Although our treatment is not painful, the child has to remain alone in the room and immobile in a specific position. Thanks to the virtual reality video, we get the patient to see the treatment, gain confidence, be calmer and face the treatment in a more relaxed way.” In order to gain first-hand knowledge of this problem, both professionals from the Radiation Oncology Department and patients have participated in the development of the script for the virtual reality video developed by Nixi for Children, explaining their experiences.
Every year more than 80 children are treated in the Radiation Oncology Service. The child attends daily between 4 and 6 weeks to receive radiotherapy treatment. In this sense, preparation before treatment is key to avoid anxiety or fear of the little ones. Thanks to the collaboration of Vall d’Hebron, Nixi for Children and the Ricky Rubio Foundation, from now on, the children will receive, before their treatment, a kit where they will find the video, virtual reality eye circles and the booklet, designed to help the little ones to express their feelings through play and creativity, which also includes three surprise coloring pages. The contribution of Nixi for Children has made the video possible and the Ricky Rubio Foundation has covered the cost of all the Nixi kits needed for the first patients.
The aim of Nixi for Children is to help children to reduce their anxiety level before a complicated treatment with virtual reality. After living a personal experience related to cancer when he was a teenager, Tomàs Lóbez decided to found Nixi for Children, a social enterprise, with the intention of helping the little ones to live their passage through the operating room in a more natural way. “We believe that virtual reality empowers children, it gives them tools to face their hospitalization without fear“. After validating their technology in a clinical trial, with “I am Ready” they hope to expand their lines of work to reach more patients and their families.
The Ricky Rubio Foundation (TRRF) fights against such a lethal disease as lung cancer and promotes sports as a tool for inclusion and integration of children and young people at risk of social exclusion. In the words of Ricky Rubio, “preparation is as important as treatment and recovery, and that is why this new project can be a success. I think it is a project that is made from the heart, using technology to help not to be afraid in a complicated situation“. The Ricky Rubio Foundation’s goal is to reach as many children as possible with this project.
The Radiation Oncology Service of Vall d’Hebron aims to contribute and promote all aspects related to the improvement of prevention, diagnosis, treatment, teaching and research of cancer. On the one hand, it integrates and vertebrates the care programs for cancer patients, especially in terms of radiation oncology. The fact of working in multidisciplinary teams improves the cure rates of patients and places Vall d’Hebron as a reference service in Spain. In addition, the Radiation Oncology Service has the most advanced technology of European centers. These advances are especially relevant for pediatric radiotherapy, since precision strategies are even more important in children. Vall d’Hebron is the reference center for pediatric radiation oncology oncology in Catalonia and treats 80% of Catalan pediatric patients and many of the complex cases in the whole of Spain.
The “I am Ready” project
The Ricky Rubio Foundation and Nixi for Children will deliver 1,000 NixiKits to the main hospitals in Spain and the USA with the intention of distributing them to families undergoing treatment completely free of charge. The Nixikits are composed of a virtual reality viewer that will allow them to know in advance what the day of treatment will be like in order to reduce the fear of the unknown. The NixiKit also contains an activity booklet to encourage the whole family to communicate about the disease and treatment, and by accessing the Nixi for Children online patient platform with additional information. Patients will also receive a medical play stuffed animal that will serve to explain through play what the treatment will be like. Multiple studies have shown that giving children the right information before treatment can reduce anxiety and fear, helping them become empowered and take ownership of their treatment.
“I am Ready” offers three distinct virtual reality experiences:
- My First Radiation Therapy Treatment.
It will show them what the day of treatment will be like and allow them to explore with Nixi and the healthcare staff the simulation CT room, the radiotherapy room and the usual treatment protocol.
- A training session with Ricky
They will be able to accompany Ricky Rubio (NBA star and basketball world champion), who will be their friend and host, in one of his training sessions. The objective is for the children to feel that they are preparing for their radiotherapy treatment in a similar way to the way Ricky prepares for an important NBA game.
- Preparing for surgery
In cases where the child has to undergo surgery, he or she will also have access to Nixi for Children’s surgery preparation experience that will show them the inside of an operating room and the anesthesia induction process.