New PlayStation therapy keeps burn victims in the game

"Eye Toy can help fight depression and improve self-image."

playing playstation 63 (photo credit: )
playing playstation 63
(photo credit: )
A Sony PlayStation Eye Toy can cost-effectively help burn victims fight depression and improve their self-image while distracting them from their pain when conventional occupational therapy fails, according to Dr. Joseph Haik, a plastic surgeon and burn specialist at Tel Aviv University's Sackler Faculty of Medicine. EyeToy can also be useful in helping patients take the first step in accepting a new self image, Dr. Haik explains. Serious burns not only require painful treatment and cause physical disability, but can also leave deep mental scars. Haik maintains that the therapy he devised using the PlayStation digital camera can dampen the psychological effects of burns and help patients heal faster. Best of all, no additional equipment or special modifications are needed. "With our method, patients look into the EyeToy and see their images projected on a monitor," he says. "The game recognizes their gestures and shows them to themselves, helping them adjust to what they look like after their injury." Haik recently presented his approach to the American Burn Association's conference abroad. With the EyeToy, rehabilitation and the return of function can be speeded up, says Haik, who has used it on dozens of Israeli adults and children at Sheba Medical Center's burn unit and reconstructive surgery department at Tel Hashomer. The patient chooses the EyeToy PlayStation game he likes and - as he plays with occupational and physical therapists nearby - the healing process begins. "Some doctors prescribe virtual-reality games that requires patients to wear special equipment, putting them at risk of infection. But our approach doesn't require the patient to touch a thing," says Haik. "This game, which projects a person's body into it, presents their injuries in an original way," says Haik. "Getting an early understanding of how a patient looks to others is critical for overcoming self-image problems," he stresses. "By showing the patient 'inside' the PlayStation game, we distract them from some of the immediate physical trauma and pain, which they gradually learn to accept through game playing." He has used the therapy with his own patients for the past several years, and looks forward to formal clinical trials. MORE MRI MACHINES The number of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners in Israel is due to increase by 50 percent. The Knesset Labor, Social Affairs and Health Committee recently decided to allow additional hospitals - beyond the existing 10 - to purchase MRI machines (non-state hospitals will have to use their own funds, of course). The Health Ministry said it will issue a public tender for the purchase of five imaging devices, giving priority to hospitals in the periphery of the country where such scans are not easily accessible. Priority will also be given to areas where the queue for an MRI scan is long. The committee decided that there will be one machine per 475,000 residents instead of the current one per 750,000. The scanners, which cost millions of shekels each, are used to diagnose cancers and certain neurological conditions. THE INVISIBLE DANGER When Yohai Alon, a nine-year-old from Beit Shean, arrived at Emek Medical Center complaining of a sore throat and incessant coughing after a friend pushed a mechanical pencil into his throat, doctors performed an X-ray and used other imaging techniques to look for the cause. They found no foreign object in his throat, trachea or lungs, and had to perform an exploratory operation to learn more. To their surprise, they found a transparent mechanical pen cap stuck between his tonsils and removed it. After being under observation, he was discharged. Dr. Dror Ashkenazi, an Emek otolaryngologist, said hundreds of children swallow foreign objects every year, and scores of them need surgery as a result. GETTING TO KNOW YAD SARAH Yad Sarah, the Israel Prize-winning humanitarian organization that provides a large variety of services to the disabled, elderly and sick around the country, has found an easy way to contact known and potential supporters around the world. Just tune in to Featured in the video clips on this new Yad Sarah channel are activities of thousands of volunteers who devote their skills, talents and creativity to serving the public. Volunteers - some of them elderly themselves - look forward to coming to Yad Sarah centers. They are encouraged by the clients' warmth and appreciation for their work, and the satisfaction they receive contributes to their quality of life. The Web channel informs viewers in English of the organization's activities using videoclips as well as text.