Patients with life-limiting illnesses will now be able to travel wherever they want from the comfort of their hospice bed – thanks to a generous businessman.
East Lancashire Hospice is offering patients the opportunity to travel to faraway lands, experience the thrills of a rollercoaster or even travel into outer space - thanks to virtual reality technology.
The VR system, valued at around £3,500, has been donated by Ram Gupta from Blackburn-based Nybble IT to the hospice – which offers care to patients and their families in Blackburn, Darwen, Hyndburn and the Ribble Valley.
Film crews from BBC’s North West Tonight and ITV’s Granada Reports attended the hospice to film the first two patients to benefit are Mick Greenhall-Baron, and John Taylor. Mick, who has heart disease, has family in Arizona and wanted to feel closer to his relatives. He was also able to walk among wild wolves - an animal he has a close affinity to.
He said: “It gives people a chance to see things they have no chance of seeing, it will help people in the hospice be happier. It’s like you’re really there. I don't know how it works but it is magic.”
John, who has a type of blood cancer called Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL), enjoyed a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon to see the place where the Westerns were filmed.
He said: “I didn't expect it to be so colourful, there were greens and reds and greys. Using VR is an escape and allows us to focus on something else. Now I can say that I've been.”
Ram and his team, who have competed in this year’s East Lancashire Hospice Corporate Challenge, came to demonstrate the capabilities of the technology – and staff loved the possibilities it offered.
Ram said: “Virtual Reality is exactly what it says on the box – it is a virtual world where you have an experience without actually being there. You could visit a country without leaving your home or experience the thrills of a rollercoaster without leaving your bed. It’s all make-believe.
“Patients at the hospice who are too ill to travel or unable to fulfil their wishes could really benefit from it and have a totally immersive experience.”
The system, which comes with multiple headsets, also means that patients can share the experience with loved ones at the same time.
Dr Karen Hogarth, senior hospice physician, said: “Quite often patients might be approaching end-of-life, but for various reasons haven’t been able to fulfil their wishes.
“VR will help to distract patients from the pain they’re feeling rather than reaching for the medication. It’s a different way of helping them relax of they are feeling anxious or distressed for any reason. It can take them away from somewhere.”