Visiting doctors raise money for VR headsets for child patients at Ord Valley Aboriginal Health Service

Sarah CrawfordThe Kimberley Echo
The Ord Valley Aboriginal Health Service's outreach clinic.
Camera IconThe Ord Valley Aboriginal Health Service's outreach clinic. Credit: supplied

Getting a child to receive an injection can sometimes be difficult and distressing for everyone.

And it can be even tougher for staff at the Ord Valley Aboriginal Health Service who have to make children with rheumatic heart disease receive painful injections once a month for five to sometimes 10 years.

If the children don’t receive the injections they risk heart failure.

Now visiting GP Dr Ryan Holmes and his colleague Dr Sonia Henry have teamed up to try and make the big needles less painful for the children.

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They have created a GoFundMe page to raise money for virtual reality headsets called Smileyscopes to help reduce the fear and stress during the monthly injections.

“The injections are big and painful,” Dr Holmes said.

“It’s hard to get kids to have a small flu needle at the best of times, let alone tell them you’ve got to come have a humongous injection to your bottom once a month for the next five years.”

“That’s where the Smileyscope can be very helpful. It’s a virtual reality headset and they can be programmed for all sorts of things, so the children could be in space or under the sea. So they have a really good time with it and it makes the whole process a lot easier because the kids are distracted, they’re having fun.”

Dr Holmes, from Bondi Junction in NSW, was inspired to raise money after working at the Ord Valley Aboriginal Health Service in May.

He, and his colleague Dr Sonia Henry, had originally aimed to raise $5000 from patients at his clinic to purchase one virtual headset for the health service.

However, word has spread and in the last two months they have raised more than $30,000.

Their new funding target is $32,000 so they can purchase more headsets for other remote clinics.

“We are completely blown away by the generosity of our fellow Australians,” Dr Holmes said.

The East Kimberley has a high incidence of rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease.

It can develop from inadequately treated streptococcal infections such as step throat and scarlet fever.

About 27 per cent of patients with rheumatic heart disease will end up with heart failure.

Dr Holmes said he had seen children aged as young as three or four, and even babies with rheumatic fever or rheumatic heart disease.

“This just doesn’t exist in the city,” he said.

“It’s pretty shocking, I suppose to think that we are in the same country when there is such a huge health gap between people in the city and the country. And then you add Indigenous patients into the mix who are already vulnerable, and the gap gets bigger and bigger.”

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