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Courtesy of Shriners Hospital for Children-Chicago

Kia Ferrer, child life specialist at Shriners Hospital for Children-Chicago, uses an iPad to walk a patient through her treatment.

Apple iPad app eases fear in children undergoing surgery at Chicago hospital

by Jaclyn Gray
April 27, 2011


Courtesy of Shriners Hospital for Children-Chicago

A patient uses the state-of-the-art Pediatric Lokomat at Shriners Hospital for Children-Chicago.

Surgery is a scary thing for anyone to face. But for a child, it can be one the most frightening experiences they’ve ever had.

Shriners Hospital for Children-Chicago, 2211 N. Oak Park Ave., has discovered a way to help reduce the fear and anxiety kids experience when facing tough medical procedures – an app for Apple's iPad tablet computer.

Kia Ferrer, child life specialist at Shriners, developed a program that virtually walks patients through the course of their treatment.

“With Keynote, an iPad application similar to PowerPoint, children are able to slide through pictures of what will take place from admission to discharge,” she said. “With this device I can explain surgery preparation through pictures and age-appropriate language.”

Shriners-Chicago specializes in orthopedics, spinal cord injury and cleft lip and palate care. The hospital acquired two iPads from Eric Tjarks and Cornbelt Shrine Club last November. Buzz about the program spread quickly.

“It’s terrific,” Shriners spokeswoman Cathleen Himes said. “They have different exercises they go through with them about pain and what they’re going to see. It’s like, ‘First you’re going to go into this room and then you’re going to meet this lady’. It eases the tension and it works.”

The program is geared toward children ages three and up.

Prior to using the iPad, Ferrer used books with pictures of different rooms at the hospital, with words underneath explaining the procedures. “The iPad has revolutionized the way I teach because it’s more of an interactive tool,” Ferrer said. “Most children love technology so they’re very attracted to this new and neat little computer that shows them the steps of their hospital experience.”

Shriners-Chicago leads the way in using state-of-the-art technology for its treatment and rehabilitation care. In addition to the iPad, the hospital also houses the Pediatric Lokomat and a new Motion Analysis Lab.

The Lokomat is a robotic treadmill machine which helps patients with neurological impairments improve their gait pattern and independence by allowing for more range of motion than other rehabilitation devices.

The Motion Analysis Lab is an 1800 square-foot laboratory with a 40-by-24 foot walkway which specializes in the systematic measurement of motion and forces during walking. Fourteen infrared cameras surround the walkway to provide a 3-D assessment which surgeons, engineers and therapists use to refine patient’s diagnosis and treatment plans.

Ferrer hopes to incorporate even more technology in the future. “We have a room for children that has game consoles and a wide screen TV and we would love to update it with Apple computers that have web cameras for video chat,” she said.

She said the hospital attracts patients from all over the world who could keep in touch with their families from home, which would provide emotional support during their stay at Shriners.

“We are so appreciative of the gracious gift of the iPads and are looking forward to developing more teaching programs,” Ferrer added.