FORT WORTH, Texas — Just because 15-year-old Haile Shelton is a hospital regular, doesn't mean she enjoys many of the "experiences" at Cook Children's Medical Center.
"If it's something I've never done before and it involves needles, I get very nervous," Haile said.
A 3-D technology called the V-pod helps take the edge off.
Cook Children's is the first in the nation with the sensory unit. V-pod stands for "virtual platform optimized design." It projects interactive 3-D images — from roller coaster rides to relaxing bubbles.
The visuals distract youngsters while hospital staff perform sometimes painful procedures.
It often relieves the need for medication.
"Sometimes we'll have patients that are so worked up that they really do need some medicine just to calm them down," said Child Life Specialist Lauren Young. "You can help them focus and engage on that, so that they don't focus on the needle stick themselves."
Mental distractions make pain easier to take. That pain-relieving effect isn't just in the head, according to a 2012 report published in Current Biology.
Cook Children's received the V-pod as a gift from Amazing Interactives of Middlesbrough, England. Without the donation and support of the Children's Miracle Network, the technology would cost about $12,000.
Haile Shelton suffers from dystonia, a neurological disorder that sometimes makes her move uncontrollably under stress. That reaction is often triggered in the hospital.
"It is really engaging," Haile said about her V-pod experience. "And it takes your mind off things."
That makes it easier to endure medical procedures meant to bring to bring relief, not suffering.