COLLIER COUNTY, Fla. — Golisano Children's Health Center expands new pediatric services to Naples, including the first of its kind of virtual reality treatment center for children undergoing chemotherapy.
"I'm being treated for recurrent stage four Kidney cancer with METs in the lung and the liver," said 16-year-old Jorja Miller. "After my 10th birthday, a couple of days afterward, we found out I got diagnosed with cancer."
Miller is also a junior at Collier High School but often misses school due to her chemotherapy treatments. In fact, until Golisano Children's Health Center expanded pediatric services to Naples recently, she often had to drive to Fort Myers for treatment.
"I would sit here and say 'Please, please no hospital trip to Fort Myers', Now that it's here we are able to get our stuff, come in, get all we need to go straight home instead of a 45-minute drive," Jorja said. "Now it's 7 minutes tops, I might be able to go to school afterward which is also amazing."
The expansion is not only bringing 14 pediatric services closer to patients in Collier County, but it's also bringing the nation's first Virtual Reality Treatment Room at a Children's Hospital.
"We try to ease that pain, to make this as seamless of a process as possible," said Dr. Emad Salman, Chief Physician Executive at Golisano Children's Health. "They have to get the chemo, however, how can we make this painless, decrease anxiety level, how can we make this fun?"
Dr. Salman and the hospital then paired up with a local company, D3 Creative Studio, and its CEO Anthony Debono.
"The hope here is we can provide some level of comfort as Dr. Salman said for the kids," Debono said. "Also give them a choice when they are going through their therapy and some level of distraction from what they are going through."
The children can pick their own virtual reality, whether it's on the beach, underwater, or even dancing with astronauts in space. It's a 270-degree, immersive experience brought to life through projectors.
The goal is to take this $150,000 dollar prototype and implement it in more hospitals across the nation because Jorja believes it could change lives by making even the hardest days a little bit easier.
"When you get sad and you hit the dancing, you break down and just dance with it, it's so much fun," Jorja said. "It's going to change lives, I can already feel it."