Sunday, August 31, 2008

Caring jesters

Thursday, August 28, 2008


Ashley Wingo walked into the hospital as a patient today but was soon turned into a giggling “pineapple head.”

Brian McNelis painting the face of Lake Hopatcong's Ashley Wingo, 6, to look like a pineapple.

At least that’s what Ashlee, 6, looked like when Brian McNelis finished painting her face yellow, green and orange during a Carnival Day for pediatric patients at Hackensack University Medical Center.

McNelis was one of several entertainers at the event sponsored by the Hope for Henry Foundation of Washington, D.C. Dozens of children were treated to games, juggling, candy and magic tricks, at the Don Imus WFAN Pediatric Center for Tomorrows Children and the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital at Hackensack.

“You look beautiful,” McNelis told the chuckling child, who has leukemia.

The foundation was established in honor of Henry Strongin Goldberg, a Washington boy who died in 2003 at age 7 after a lifelong battle with Fanconi anemia, a rare inherited failure of the bone marrow. Henry made many trips to Hackensack for treatment, said his mother, Lauri Strongin.

Sarah Wingo, 9, of Lake Hopatcong, helping out Josh Edelman during his juggling act.

“Hackensack is known for its expertise in blood diseases,” Strongin said. “If you’re in the mid-Atlantic region, you’re going to come here.”

Henry was a resilient child who never thought of himself as sick, but focused on trying to get better, said Strongin, who the founded organization. Hope for Henry has staged events at Hackensack for the past five years.

“He was an amazing kid,” Strongin said of her son. “He had incredible bravery, a positive attitude, a sense of humor.”

“This is more important than all the money gigs you do,” said McNelis, 45, a Washington clown and actor, who has performed Shakespeare. “Everybody gets a chance to give back.”

Sachi Tejani of Rutherford is only 6, but she has already given something back. Earlier this month, she donated bone marrow to her brother, Neelcq, 8, a patient at Hackensack who has lymphoma. Today, Sachi was watching Doug Young, a magician, perform magic tricks.

“You have to treat them as just kids,” said Young, 36, who wore an electric blue double-breasted jacket. “They have so much love and support around them,” he said. “That really helps.”


Thursday, August 7, 2008

HopeLab is definitely on to something important. Great name. Important work.

Video games are among the most popular entertainment media in the world. Now, groundbreaking research shows that a specially designed video game can promote positive behaviors in young cancer patients that enhance the effectiveness of medical treatment.

This research, sponsored by the nonprofit organization HopeLab and published in the medical journal Pediatrics, provides scientific evidence for a growing field of product development that taps into the positive potential of video games and other popular technology to improve human health.

"We have very effective treatments for cancer in adolescents, but they only work if the patient takes them," said Steve Cole, Ph.D., vice president of research at HopeLab and co-author of the article. "This study shows that a strategically designed video game can be a powerful new tool to enhance the impact of medical treatment by motivating healthy behavior in the patient."

The study evaluated the impact of playing Re-Mission(TM), a video game developed by HopeLab specifically for teens and young adults with cancer, on key behavioral and psychological factors associated with successful cancer treatment. In Re-Mission, players pilot a microscopic robot named Roxxi as she travels through the bodies of fictional cancer patients, blasting away cancer cells and battling the side-effects of cancer and cancer treatments.

This study on Re-Mission is the largest randomized, controlled study of a video game intervention ever conducted, following 375 teens and young adults with cancer at 34 medical centers in the United States, Canada and Australia during three months of cancer treatment.

In the study, participants who were given Re-Mission maintained higher levels of chemotherapy in their blood (20%; p=.002) and took their antibiotics more consistently (16%; p=.012) than those in the control group, demonstrating the game's impact at a biological level. Participants given Re-Mission also showed faster acquisition of cancer-related knowledge (230%; p=.035) and faster increase in self-efficacy (370%; p=.011).

"We now know that games can induce positive changes in the way individuals manage their health," said Dr. Cole. "The game not only motivates positive health behavior; it also gives players a greater sense of power and control over their disease -- in fact, that seems to be its key ingredient."

Analyses of study data suggest that patients' increased sense of control over cancer (self-efficacy) was a major driver of the game's effect on medical treatment utilization. To better understand how game play delivers the outcomes highlighted in the Pediatrics article, HopeLab conducted a study that utilizes functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) technology to analyze the brain regions that are activated when people play Re-Mission. Data from this research will be presented in Tokyo at the 10th International Congress of Behavioral Medicine August 27 - 30, 2008.

"The process to create and evaluate Re-Mission was highly collaborative, often challenging, and an incredible learning experience," said Pam Omidyar, HopeLab founder and board chair. "The publication of Re-Mission data represents the fulfillment of HopeLab's founding vision -- that rationally engineered technology can be a powerful tool to improve the health of young people."

Superheroes Descend on Hackensack for Annual Hope for Henry Celebration