Maya is an adept, inventive ten-year-old who loves to be in motion. She’s an avid gymnast with a passion for arts and crafts, and an aspiration to be a wedding dress designer.
In 2019, Maya experienced a sudden pain in her left leg. Given her gymnastic activities, the discomfort was assumed at first to be a pulled muscle. But then the pain persisted, and Maya found herself unable to put weight on her leg. A pediatrician’s X-ray prompted an appointment with an oncologist. The oncologist determined that Maya had a tumor, and she was diagnosed with aggressive bone cancer. The cancer diagnosis came in September, child cancer month, an ironic twist that Maya is often quick to point out.
While the dark irony was not lost on Maya, neither was her spirit of hope. With tumor surgery looming, she promptly started chemo, making it her goal to get back to gymnastics as soon as she possibly could.
The chemo was, of course, not easy. Maya typically has three consecutive weeks of chemo, with a break on the weekends and then a one week break at home. This is the life of a chemo patient: undergoing weeks of hospitalization, all the while restricted to their room. Maya’s chemo sessions were intense and typically left her immobilized. The thought of physical therapy during chemo was intimidating, to say the least.
But Maya met the challenge, thanks to determination, bravery, and also Augment Therapy.
Augment Therapy is an all-in-one software solution to engage, motivate, and monitor kids who need therapeutic exercise. By way of Augmented Reality (AR), Augment Therapy immerses the patient within a lush, interactive world where they can interface with games, exercises, and explorations designed by therapists to motivate kids to complete their therapy requirements.
Using an iPad connected to a TV, Augment Therapy was incorporated as part of Maya’s physical therapy sessions. Within days, Maya would vault out of bed as soon as the screen came into the room, taking to her physical therapy routine with zeal. No longer immobilized, Maya could now offer a smile, even in the face of chemotherapy.
“Her mood changes almost instantly,” reports Rhoda, Maya’s mom. “Movement,” Rhoda hypothesizes, “is so important to help expel the chemo from her body […] I only wish we started earlier in Maya’s treatment. I am ever so thankful.” She encapsulates Augment Therapy as “a way to get your child to move without being a nagging mom.”
Mom’s anecdotes have been echoed by researchers, too. Elizabeth Hockey, a physical therapist and researcher looking into the efficacy of Augment Therapy, is particularly excited about the software’s applications for cancer patients. “Augment Therapy will be a fantastic resource for [Oncology patients] to maintain strength, balance and endurance,” she explained. In this spirit, Hockey and her research team sought out and secured grant funding that will enable the installation of Augment Therapy units in all the patient rooms on the Oncology floor at the Rainbow Babies Hospital in Cleveland, as well as in each of the floor’s activity rooms.
Maya’s story shows how Augment Therapy smoothed the experience of physical therapy for a child confronting cancer. Her engagement and eagerness in her therapy sessions point to promising potentialities for applying Augment Therapy during cancer treatment. Just as importantly, her enthusiastic interactions with Augment Therapy suggest that Maya will be back to gymnastics even sooner than she may have anticipated.