YOUR HEALTH: Being entertained before surgery

PALO ALTO, California – For a six year old, a hospital can be a very scary place.

This is Carter's first time in one.   That's why his doctors came up with a way to make the experience a little easier for him, and other young patients.

"You're watching 'Big Hero Six!'"

It's called BERT, short for Bedside Entertainment and Relaxation Theater.   A projection unit mounted on a stretcher engages patients with movies and video games right before surgery.

"Carter is all about video games," says his mother Dana Seydel.   "When we heard that we thought it would be really up his alley."

It is the brainchild of Stanford University anesthesiologist Sam Rodriguez, Dr Tom Caruso, and a team of engineers.

"We have children who are very anxious, very stressed about having surgery," said Dr. Rodriguez who works at Stanford's Lucile Packard Children's Hospital.

After various attempts, Dr. Rodriguez found the solution with BERT and its three-foot wide screen.

"They couldn't even see the operating room equipment as they were walking in because the screen was large enough to actually be blocking it."

Before surgery, BERT plays movies.   But when it's time for anesthesia, it transforms into an interactive video game.  Kids pretend to be a fire-breathing dragon cooking their favorite food.

"We also use it to get them to be more cooperative and to take, you know, deep breaths," says Dr. Rodriguez.

Carter is just one of many satisfied patients.

As a result, ten BERT units are now being used in the surgery wards.   Plans are also underway to share the software with hospitals around the country.

TREATMENT: Parents and doctors should provide children with any information they may be curious about. It is important to be honest with children to make them feel more secure. Some hospitals have allowed parents to stay with their child until they are given the anesthetic. It is up to the parents, child, and doctor, as studies have shown that there are no positive or negative results of parents staying with their children. Sometimes acupuncture and listening to music may help children with anxiety. Furthermore, it is important for parents to lessen their anxiety as this can also make kids anxious.   (Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0072744/)

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.