Virtual Reality Bringing Grace to Terminally Ill Kids

By Brian Wesolowski

Kevin is a 17-year-old with advanced cystic fibrosis. His disease makes it difficult to breathe, a challenge to be outdoors, and nearly impossible to be vigorously physically active. This disease is unfortunately not curable. Yet with the help of virtual reality technology, Kevin can do a space walk at the International Space Station and explore our galaxy.

In a beautiful short film (below), Child of the Earth, you can watch Kevin’s story firsthand. It was created for Trinity Kids, a nonprofit pediatric hospice care program in Torrance, Calif. In partnership with NASA, TrinityKids provides terminally ill children with virtual reality technology that allows them to experience what it is like to be an astronaut. As Kevin’s doctor, Glen Komatsu, says in the video, this technology brings “small slices of joy” to the children.

When moving well through life is physically challenging, virtual and augmented reality technologies can be tremendous assets. As Kevin says in talking about virtually going into space, “When I go in there, I just forget what I have.”

Dr. Ira Byock, the Founder and Chief Medical Officer at the Institute for Human Caring of Providence St. Joseph Health, shared the film with me just before we chatted about how to bring more grace to end-of-life care. Dr. Byock will be a guest on the forthcoming Gracefully podcast. Sign up if you’d like to be notified when it is released.

Video Credits: Claudio Fäh and Adam Recht.