January 3, 2023
Game On: Donor-funded tech program scores high with kids
Distraction comes in many forms. For some kids, it’s a colouring book, paintbrush or a plushie. Others might find it behind the wheel in a game of Mario Kart.
That’s where the Child and YoutH Interactive Media Program (CHIMP) comes into play. CHIMP supports the psychosocial needs of kids using video games, computers, iPads, cameras, and other STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) devices in therapeutic ways to help them cope with the challenges of illness or injury. The program is entirely donor funded and plays a huge role in the hospital’s distraction strategy to soothe jitters, put kids at ease, as well as educate them on how to use technology safely.
Daniel Trujnikov was 11 when he was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. The aggressive chemotherapy plan was hard on him. He suffered an allergic reaction to the drug early on and he could not stomach the thought of another IV treatment, though he would still need many.
CHIMP coordinator Linh Lam (more affectionately known as “the video game lady” among kids) and members of the CHIMP team would visit Daniel to take his mind off the treatment.
“He was extremely anxious, but Linh would come with the big video game cart and they would play different games while he was administered the drug, and it helped a lot,” says Daniel’s mom, Amina.
By the time Daniel finished his last treatment, he was a pro with the needles and with his favourite games, leaving a cheeky note for Linh after he was done. “I have many great memories with you and you made my hospital visits way better and happier. Thank you for being the best. PS: I’m still better at Minecraft than you.”
For “the video game lady,” it’s interactions like that which make hers the best job in the world.
“We’re not there to poke or prod them, we’re there to give them a break and have some fun. It’s so meaningful to all of us, and we are so grateful for the community support that makes it all possible,” says Lam.
A small but mighty team of three along with volunteers, CHIMP supports kids in the entire hospital, which includes inpatients on all units, ambulatory clinics/areas, as well as at the Gordon Townsend School and Rotary Flames House. Along with providing access to developmentally appropriate games and electronics, the team works with patients who are interested in photography, coding, even robotics. They have also seen great success using virtual reality headsets.
Photo: Harrison Nguyen, Linh Lam and Aileen Gautron of the Child and YoutH Interactive Media Program (CHIMP) at the Alberta Children’s Hospital.