Unconventional healing: Gaming helps VA patients recover, inside and out

Monday, Nov. 4, 2019
News 12 This Morning

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Recovering from a spinal cord injury can take months, and for many people, it can cause paralysis. But the VA Medical Center in Augusta is using something unconventional to make the process easier.

The video game world is something Justin Hall is very familiar with.

"I've been gaming for 29 years like since I was three - no joke," said Hall, an outpatient at the VA Hospital.

It's a lifelong hobby that has ended up helping him more than he could ever imagine.

"Honestly, gaming takes your mind away from the whole being paralyzed, and depression of that."

Hall Got sick in march.

"In March, I got sick. I thought I had the flu. It ended up being Meningitis, which activated a rare out immune disease that paralyzed me completely. I almost died," Hall said.

But he didn't. He eventually ended up at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center. That's when he started using technology like virtual reality. Neuro Rehab VR donated the system to the VA a few months ago.

"The symphony that is movement. I see it more when they're participating with gaming."

It's something Amy Josey, an occupational therapist at the VA, is passionate about. She's seen it work.

"Gaming is just a tremendous way of someone being put in a very novel situation that's fun and exciting and distracting," Josey told us.

Not just distracting, but it also makes movement easier and almost mindless.

"It's a lot easier to move when you're not thinking about it."

Microsoft also donated adaptive controllers for Xbox to the VA's Spinal Cord Injury Unit. They're studying how it can affect veterans' pain and isolation.

"The more stimulation you can give someone, hopefully, the outcome will be you achieve greater movement."

Justin hopes to be able to walk again and have a full recovery.

Copyright 2019 WRDW/WAGT. All rights reserved.