Little Lenny’s under the sea emergency adventure

Posted 30 May 2021

Dolphin rides, swimming with seals and playing in a room full of kittens… Doesn’t sound like your average trip to the emergency department does it?

But that’s exactly what five-year-old Lenny got up to during his recent visit, after a little accident at home required two stitches to the chin.

Lenny was completely unaware of the treatment administered by Flinders Medical Centre’s Paediatric Emergency Department (ED) staff as he was wearing a SmileyScope – a new virtual reality headset which transported him off on an underwater adventure.

“Not once did he cry, ask for me, or say he was scared… he was simply relaxed and enjoying what he was watching,” mum Lauren said.

“I asked him after if he knew that he had to have four needles, and he said he had no idea.

“Without the goggles on I think he would have been quite stressed and anxious, particularly seeing a needle come towards him, but instead he had a great experience!”

Flinders Medical Centre (FMC) will offer the technology to young patients in a bid to calm and distract them during a range of procedures, including stitches, blood collection, needles, inserting catheters and nasogastric tubes or fitting plaster casts.

The headsets were purchased by Flinders Foundation thanks to generous donations from the community – including fundraising by Emergency Department staff and support from engineering company Babcock Australasia.

FMC Paediatric ED Acting Nurse Unit Manager, Megan Eastaughffe, said the interactive programs could be adjusted depending on the child’s needs.

“In one scenario, when a needle needs to be inserted, children will actually see and ‘feel’ a fish nibble at the injection site which is pretty amazing,” Megan explained.

“There’s also a breathing and relaxation mode which helps regulate breathing when children are, for example, hyperventilating, or when using sedation methods like nitrous ‘laughing’ gas.

“Staff can also use the headsets to improve their own wellbeing by taking a few moments to relax on their own underwater adventure, play with kittens, or simply sit beside a river, on a beach or under a starry night sky.

“It’s really wonderful to be able to make what can often be a traumatic experience that little bit easier for kids and their families, where instead of them crying or screaming, they’re talking about being under the sea and swimming with octopuses, penguins and dolphins…they’re just blown away.”


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