Teen collecting video games for clinic
Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014

Teen collecting video games for clinic

Chris West, 15, a Riverwalk resident, is helping others with cancer ease the monotony of daylong chemotherapy infusions through video games.

Chris West is on a mission to get as many video games as he can before the end of this month.

He’s not collecting them for himself, though as a self-proclaimed gaming junkie, he admits he’ll probably play a few.

West, 15, a freshman at Jay M. Robinson High School, plans to take them to Novant Health Blume Pediatric Hematology and Oncology Clinic in Charlotte for children to play as they undergo their often lengthy chemotherapy infusions.

“Getting it (an infusion) doesn’t hurt, but it’s pretty boring,” said West, who is battling Hodgkin’s lymphoma for the third time since 2011. Video games, he said, can break up the monotony of sitting in a hospital chair or bed for hours while powerful medicines are pumped through the body.

Pediatric oncology units are often stocked with ways to distract their young patients. Most have televisions, DVRs, crafts, books and video games to keep them busy. It’s a welcome necessity.

“Any child that’s challenged with a life-threatening illness is so susceptible to being overwhelmed by the disease itself, and suffer from depression or anxiety, so these are outlets,” said Dr. Christine Bolen, of Novant Health Blume Pediatric Hematology and Oncology.

Where Bolen works, each of the 28 hospital rooms in the pediatric oncology unit where inpatient treatment occurs is equipped with an Xbox 360. In the outpatient clinic, the infusion rooms have a variety of gaming units, from Xboxes to Wiis to PS3s.

Delivering chemotherapy medicines can last anywhere from several hours to four days. It doesn’t take long for the young patients to grow shiftless.

“During those time-frames, the children are essentially hooked up to their IV poles and they’re confined to their room or to their bed,” said Bolen. “That is a significant amount of time that you’re spending in one room.”

West, who lives in the Riverwalk neighborhood in Concord, came up with the idea for a video game drive while undergoing his latest treatment. Novant Health, where he often goes, has a book of around 100 video games, but most are older versions.

West brings in his newer versions, but always felt bad others didn’t have their own to bring.

“I got to thinking that it would be good for the kids at the clinic to get to play the new versions,” West said. “So far I have about 40, mostly sports games.”

Three years with a cancer diagnosis has forced West to think in ways most of his peers have probably never had to think.

During the recent snowstorm, he hiked with his sled up the hill at Carl A Furr Elementary School and let the frigid powder spray his face while he plunged to the bottom. But where many boys his age might try daredevil stunts that involve ramps and the possibility of airborne bodies, the 15 year-old West stayed reserved.

“He was worried that his platelet count would be too low and he would be full of bruises,” said his mother. “So he went out there, but he did take it easy.”

She’s glad he’s found ways not to dwell on his diagnosis and actually improve the lives of others like him.

“He is constantly thinking of others,” said Michelle. “You wouldn’t think with what he’s going through, that he would. I am beyond proud.”

Columnist Lisa Thornton is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Lisa? Email her at lisathornton@carolina.rr.com

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