Computer gift keeps children occupied during treatment

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It is the latest advance in paediatric medicine, making life easier for children who have to undergo painful procedures in hospital.

But the innovation that is easing the lives of patients at the Sick Kids hospital is not a new drug or operation, but a special computer, tailor-made for distracting them.

The Ditto, which costs more than £4000, was presented by the Sick Kids Friends Foundation thanks to a donation from the city’s Fire Fund, which helps victims of fire.

It is designed to be particularly helpful for children with burns who need to have painful dressings changed, but is also being used by a range of other patients.

Gillian Saunders, the hospital’s play specialist, said: “A lot of the kids might be quite anxious before they come in, so we’ll speak to them and say ‘Do you want a shot of our new computer?’ and they’re desperate to see what it is, most of them are right in there and want to have a shot.

“It makes them think about something different, it diverts their attention from the procedure and they get to have some fun, hopefully resulting in a positive experience when they come into hospital.”

The Ditto contains a series of games designed to be good at distracting children, with easy-to-learn controls which involve moving the console around.

It also has a series of short animations which can help prepare children for potentially frightening procedures, with titles such as Bobby Gets a Skin Graft, or Bobby Goes To Theatre.

It can be completely immersed in water so children can play with it in the bath, and it can be wiped clean for infection control.

Staff nurse Hilary Taylor said: “If they’re having any change of dressing that’s painful they can go on the games and they’ve got to concentrate because the whole thing tilts left and right it takes a wee bit of concentration.

“It makes a big difference, if they get zoned into it.”

She said the team saw up to 16 children a day, four days a week, many of whom would benefit from using the Ditto.

Trying it out at the hospital this week was 11-year-old Christopher Fleming, who was born with a cleft palate, and has just undergone surgery to remove bone from his hip and graft it into his gum.

He said: “It’s really good, it’s really fun to play with. I’ve got stitches in my hip and when they changed the dressing I was playing with this.”

His mother, Dawn, added: “Hilary gave him that to distract him and he was totally engrossed in it. It really distracted him, compared to when he was getting his bloods done the other day.”

Sick Kids Friends Foundation chief executive Maureen Harrison said: “It’s tremendous. Everyone is delighted that it makes the children’s experience in the treatment room so much easier.

“We’re very grateful to the city Fire Fund, who funded the purchase of this technology with a gift.”