‘Magic Carpet’ helps young patients during hospital visits

Last year, we provided a ‘Magic Carpet’ mobile sensory unit for the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital (the Alex) in Brighton, of which we are the official fundraising arm.

Thanks to funding from The Toy Trust, we were able to purchase the unit, which is being used by young patients admitted to the Children’s Emergency Department, the High Dependency Unit (HDU) and neighbouring Medical Ward. These wards provide intensive care to the most critically ill young patients at the Alex, and the Magic Carpet is proving of vital importance to the overall experience of a poorly child.

The technology developed for the sensory unit, means it serves as a fantastic tool to help relieve the symptoms of chronic and acute illness, and to manage stress levels in a very difficult environment. Research shows the happier a child is, the faster their recovery, and if a child leaves hospital following a positive experience (particularly those with a long-term condition which will require further medical treatment) with less trauma and less psychological impact, this will help build resilience for future visits and hospital stays.

The mobile Magic Carpet is a fantastic interactive resource with the capacity to engage people of all ages and abilities. It projects interactive games and images onto the floor, bed or table that users can play with and control simply by moving on or over the projected image.

The equipment has a huge range of applications and settings, so can easily be customised to suit individual needs and requirements. This includes games such as football, fish pond, star formations, falling leaves and colour ‘explosions’.

The unit’s projections respond to the slightest movement, and also supports group interaction which can be particularly useful in the four-bed bays of the hospital’s Medical Ward. Patients can even create their own apps and games, which has proved extremely popular with teenagers.

Amy Farmer is a dedicated Play Specialist at the Alex, and in this blog, explains more about the importance of sensory equipment like the magic carpet…

“My name is Amy and I am one of the Play Specialists at the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital in Brighton. Alongside supporting my colleagues across all the wards, I am the play specialist for the Children’s Accident and Emergency Department, which currently treats over 25,000 children a year.

Last summer, Rockinghorse provided our department with a portable Magic Carpet with the specific aim of aiding the treatment, play opportunities and all-round hospital experience of patients admitted to A&E. This very clever piece of equipment has quickly become invaluable to me as a play specialist, as my main job is to help calm and engage with patients who are very poorly and/or distressed, while the medical teams make their diagnosis.

From distracting a small child during a blood test, by asking them to count the fish while the nurse gets the job done, to letting a baby crawl around on the ‘carpet’ to allow a consultant to check mobility and balance, the Magic Carpet enables patients to have fun and forget they are in a hospital setting.

The fact it is transportable means we can bring the play equipment to the bedside, and its many games and apps enables all patients – from tiny babies to teenagers – to interact in some way. It is inclusive for every child and, in particular, we have noticed the Magic Carpet is fantastic for helping the treatment of patients with learning difficulties, severe disabilities and developmental delay.

Children who have extremely limited movement absolutely love to have the lights and sounds projected around them. The Magic Carpet can be activated by the smallest of movements, so virtually every child can interact with it in some way.

Recently, a four-year-old girl was admitted to A&E with stomach problems. She was in a lot of pain, and as she had additional needs, it was not possible to explain to her what the doctors needed to do in order to help her. I set up the Magic Carpet to project on her bed, and the lights, sounds and interactive features calmed her down considerably. Using her hands, she could try to make the water move and chase the jellyfish. She became instantly less distressed, and her parents felt calmer as they could see she was okay to be examined by the doctor.

Another example is a young six-year-old boy, who was not able to bear any weight on his right leg. This was following an accident at home, and he was insisting on using crutches. Various tests had ruled out any broken bones or serious trauma to the limb, yet he was still very reluctant to use his leg. I showed him the Magic Carpet, and introduced a fun game of chasing fish, and without a second thought he was up and out of his chair to join in. This was a huge relief and showed he had simply lost his confidence in moving his leg following a painful impact. He was actually okay and did not need further treatment. This was diagnosed, and his family was reassured, without painful manipulation or causing any upset to the patient.

We’re also lucky to have a fixed Magic Carpet in our Sensory Room, also funded by Rockinghorse, which is situated as part of the Play Centre in the Alex. The space allows young patients to spend time away from the wards if they are able, and the Magic Carpet encourages them to play the many games on offer. It is a wonderful piece of kit to encourage play in the most poorly of children. It enhances their treatment, and ultimately, their experience of being in hospital.”

To find out more about our projects, please click here.

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