A Game of Recovery
A donor-funded virtual reality treadmill helps patients learn to stand and walk again
While some parents may be working to limit their children's time playing video games, the parents of 16-year-old Abraham Lucio are grateful for every minute he spends on a very special video game.
Abraham was a happy, healthy teenager with an even healthier appetite. So, in June 2020, when his parents, Myrna Cabral and Fernando Lucio, noticed he wasn't eating much, they knew that something was wrong.
In spite of Abraham's assurances that he was fine, his mother took him to a local clinic, where they ran some tests. The next day, a doctor called Myrna and told her to take her son straight to the hospital.
They took Abraham to Cook Children's, where a physician reviewed the test results from the clinic and told them that Abraham had cancer. Thirty minutes later, after additional testing, Abraham was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. The next day, he got a port, a device that is helpful for delivering chemotherapy drugs to the veins in the body, and he began treatment the following day.
After a successful treatment plan, Abraham was declared cancer-free in September 2020.
Having missed his entire freshman year of high school and the first half of his sophomore year, Abraham was eager to go back to school in October 2021. Two months later, he got COVID-19 and was hospitalized for 10 days. In May 2022, he got COVID for a second time and again had to stay in the hospital for 10 days.
When he returned home, he began experiencing numbness in his foot. The next day, he lost feeling in the foot, and the other one soon after. He couldn't move his legs, walk or sit up without support.
His parents called his team at Cook Children's Hematology and Oncology Center, and they told them to bring him to the medical center in Fort Worth. A neurologist quickly diagnosed him with Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare condition in which the body's immune system attacks the nerves outside the brain and spinal cord. This causes temporary weakness or even paralysis in parts of the body.
Abraham was admitted to Cook Children's Rehabilitation Care Unit, where he worked with physical therapists to help him be able to stand again.
Toward the end of his 60-day stay, Abraham became the first patient to use a new donor-funded machine in one of our rehab gyms. The CMill VR+ is a treadmill that simulates challenges in everyday life through augmented and virtual reality, with integrated assessments. It is, essentially, a giant video game.
Designed to help patients learn to stand and/or walk again, this new equipment features a large video screen at the end of the treadmill and a projector that, depending on the game and needs of the patient, can display the game on the treadmill's belt. Therapists can choose from various exercise games featuring visual and audio stimuli to provide patients with an interactive, varied and fun therapy to keep them immersed and motivated.
But it's not just fun; it's also smart. The CMill provides therapists with extensive data that they can use to assess a patient's balance, gait and gait adaptability.
"The CMill has a body weight support system that allows therapists to have their hands free to better assist patients," explained Kendra Stubbs, physical therapist and Cook Children's Rehab Services Manager.
"It also provides patients the confidence they don't have outside of that support to be able to regain standing balance and learn to shift their weight, lift their foot and hopefully then get to functional ambulation, or standing on their own."
Thanks to donor funding, Cook Children's was the first pediatric facility in the nation to have CMill VR+ and is still the only one Texas. Our patients have a new piece of equipment that makes therapy more fun than work, and our parents have a video game that they're more than happy to let their kids play for as long as they want.
A happy note: Abraham's final chemotherapy treatment is currently planned for June 2023, the summer before his senior year in high school.
Your generosity does not go unnoticed by others. It is emulated by those who realize its value to the community. It is revered by those who care for our patients because it enables them to do what they do best. And it is appreciated by every patient and every family who benefits from it.
Thank you from each family, patient, nurse, physician and staff member whose life you will have touched with your generosity.