MEDI robot eases pain, comforts child patients at Broward Health

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - A South Florida hospital is going high-tech with the help of a robot to ease patients’ pain.

Pediatric Patient Care is using the robot to bring comfort and care to children with chronic conditions like cancer at Broward Health Children’s Hospital.

The toy-like robot named MEDI, which is an acronym for Medicine and Engineering Design Intelligence, is making the rounds. “Well, hello there. I’m MEDI. Pleased to meet you, Tommy,” it said. “You’re having a medical test too? Isn’t that funny? I also just had one. I have had lots of them. Let’s do this together.”

By distracting the young patients and keeping them calm, health care professionals can provide treatments more effectively.

“This kind of approach looks like a toy, has an excellent impact on the way we can manage the children and manage the pain for children with chronic conditions and pain,” said Pediatric Hematology Oncologist Dr. Hector Rodriguez Cortez.

Four-year-old Tommy is being treated for kidney cancer. His mother said she’s seen a noticeable difference now that MEDI is involved in her son’s care. “He seemed more relaxed when MEDI is around during his stay here,” she said.

Child life specialist Kasey Castro said children have responded well with MEDI. “The hospital can be a threatening environment, full of adults, but when they see MEDI come in, he’s more child-friendly, and their eyes light up, and they are very excited to know about MEDI and what he can do.”

MEDI dances, gives fist bumps and encouragement. “How ya doing? Give me a fist bump,” MEDI said. “You’re totally awesome.”

And he can even teach the young patients deep breathing exercises, which are designed to ease pain and anxiety. “You do it with your nose and mouth,” MEDI said. “It’s called tissue breathing.”

“With MEDI, they are empowered to engage with him, to talk about their feelings with him. He tells them stories. He sings and dances. He talks about bullying and feelings of rejections, and he plays games with them,” said Pediatric Program Director Dr. Patrica Rowe-King.

Each MEDI costs almost $20,000. The one at Broward Health Children’s Hospital was purchased via a grant from the 1000-Plus Club to Benefit Cancer, Inc.

If the test run goes well, the hospital hopes to see more MEDI robots in the future. There are a total of eight MEDI robots at hospitals across the country. Two are in Florida, including the one at Broward Health Children’s Hospital.

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