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Sometimes, the best medicine in a hospital comes via computer

A program that gives chronically ill kids PCs -- and access to the world -- may have health benefits.

November 25, 2002|Benedict Carey

Due to a chronic illness, 17-year-old Claudia Partida spends months at a time at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Los Angeles, far from her parents and friends. Recently she has been able to break this social isolation using a PC Pal, a computer donated by the Starlight Children's Foundation, an international charity devoted to assisting children living with serious disease.

The colorful computer provides welcome company -- the ability to e-mail friends and family, and access the Web and a supply of challenging games such as Chessmaster, Math Blaster, Planet Discovery and Magic School Bus.

In studies of chronic illness, psychologists have found that regular social contact can significantly lift patients' moods, which often helps reduce discomfort, and may actually extend people's lives. The mental challenge of games and puzzles can help preserve mental acuity in people forced to spend long periods confined to a bed, researchers say.

Starlight is working to install similar technology in more than 1,000 hospitals worldwide.

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