Cruces University Hospital, together with Nixi for Children and The Ricky Rubio Foundation, brings virtual reality to pediatric radiation therapy patients

Cruces University Hospital, together with Nixi for Children and The Ricky Rubio Foundation, brings virtual reality to pediatric radiation therapy patients

  • Thanks to the “I am Ready” project of Nixi for Children and The Ricky Rubio Foundation, the Radiation Oncology Service of the Cruces University Hospital has virtual reality so that children can get to know the environment where they will receive treatments and be more relaxed during the sessions.
  • Each year more than 20 children are treated in the Radiation Oncology Service. El niño acude diariamente entre unas 4 y 6 semanas para recibir el tratamiento de radioterapia. In this sense, preparation before treatment is key to avoid anxiety or fear in children.

For children diagnosed with cancer, radiotherapy can be an unfamiliar and unsettling experience. In this sense, the project’s efforts are focused on reducing the anxiety with which they attend treatment sessions. The aim of “I Am Ready”, a project of Nixi for Children and The Ricky Rubio Foundation that has been implemented at the Cruces University Hospital, thanks to an agreement between the foundation and the hospital, is to prevent the impact of the disease and the treatment from taking its toll on their personal and family lives.

The presentation was attended by the Managing Director of the OSI Ezkerraldea Enkarterri Cruces, M Luz Marqués, the manager of The Ricky Rubio Foundation Josep Heredia, and the CEO of Nixi for Children, Tomás Lóbez.

The aim is to avoid the states of anxiety and similar disorders suffered by pediatric patients before radiotherapy treatments through 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 lie still (especially in patients aged 3 to 6 years). However, in younger children sedation during radiotherapy may be avoidable, and this is what “I am Ready” wants to achieve.

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. As Dr. Elsira Bóveda, of the Radiotherapy Service at Cruces University Hospital, states: “With very young children you have to use sedation, because they are not going to collaborate, but there are children from four years of age upwards who could help you, because they know how to stay still and they know how to play. This project will help reduce sedation”.

Virtual recreation of the Radiotherapy room

The design of all the elements of this project has been done with the help of patients, ex-patients, their families, and professionals from Radiation Oncology Services and many other professionals who have volunteered to collaborate. The video was recorded in facilities similar to those in the Linear Accelerator room at Cruces University Hospital. 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”. 

Dr. Alba González, for her part, informs us that “the idea is that when the child is with the doll, he/she reproduces a little of the medical subject. In principle, the idea is to bring the hospital closer to the child, and for the doll he is watching in the video to be held in his hand. The kit that we give them at the consultation days before starting the treatment process helps to achieve this”. The kit contains Nixi, the doll that will accompany them in this experience. It also includes a folder with 3D glasses to incorporate the cell phone. It also has a booklet to draw things about the hospital: coloring the doctor, things about space, the linear accelerator, and a certificate of bravery to fill in at the end of the treatment. Also, instructions on how to watch the video at home through a QR code to download it to your cell phone, which you then place in the glasses. and you can see Nixi in 3D when she shows you the environment in which she is going to receive treatment.

The project is aimed at children from 4 to 12 years of age. The radiotherapy service treats just over 20 children a year in this age group. They come daily for 4 to 6 weeks to receive radiotherapy treatment. The project began in March and, in addition to the expected influence of the kit on the experience of the little ones, it has been found that the use of 3D virtual reality, and all its accessories, helps the family, especially if there are little brothers or sisters, to experience the process with greater peace of mind. According to Dr. Elsira Bóveda: “The family suffers a lot when the child is here. You explain to them what the machine is like so that they are calmer. But it is true that this gives them even more peace of mind, and also the child’s siblings, who do not know what they are doing to their little brother when he comes for treatment. It’s good for them.”

Once again, the challenge of the OSI Ezkerraldea Enkarterri Cruces and Osakidetza to provide value to the patient, advancing in humanization issues and the commitment of The Ricky Rubio Foundation (TRRF) have achieved a channel of collaboration that has materialized in the agreement reached in order to humanize patient care.