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Nov 23rd, 2022

Bristol Royal Infirmary

The BRI have been treating a long stay patient who before admission, worked in technology and enjoyed playing video games. As a result of his condition he is profoundly weak and is not able to move any of his limbs except for very slight movement in one of his hands. He also has a tracheostomy and use of a one-way valve and above cuff vocalisation was not possible for many weeks post-insertion. Although he was initially delirious for a few weeks following sedation cessation, he does not have any cognitive impairment. He was understandably anxious, which was exacerbated by his not being able to communicate effectively with unit staff and his visitors, and by him not being able to "do something" to distract himself from unwanted thoughts. OT Sarah Harris and SLT Daisy Richens referred this gentleman to SpecialEffect, a charity that helps people with physical challenges to access video games. They have a project, called StarGaze, whereby a specialist team assesses people in intensive care who have lost the abilities to communicate or access technology, and provides support and equipment to restore these abilities as best as possible. Following a comprehensive and holistic assessment, they kindly provided this gentleman with eye-gaze technology on loan, which he has taken to like a duck to water! He is now able to use this technology to listen to music on Spotify, browse videos on YouTube, and watch movies and TV shows on apps like Netflix and Disney+ and does not require any outside assistance other than the eye-gaze equipment being set up at the beginning of each day. The next thing he would like to do is get WhatsApp and Discord set up so he is able to communicate with family and friends through direct messaging.  
The team at the BRI have seen a significant shift in this gentleman's mood since he was loaned this technology and he and his family feel it is the thing that has had the greatest positive impact on his wellbeing since he was admitted. His parents said: "Left totally paralysed and unable to communicate properly, the SpecialEffect StarGaze project have been able to identify and offer a potential gateway for our son to once again interact with video games, video-on-demand and social media applications. The first time he used the system, his lips mouthed the words, "wow - fantastic". His face was one big smile, our eyes were full of tears.  That one smile was priceless.  Thank you so much for referring L to SpecialEffect. We shall be eternally grateful to you for this as this has had such a positive effect on L."