Hitting home runs, shooting down villains and making a quick escape — they’re all part of the virtual life of 28-year-old Jorge Sanchez, a leukemia patient who admits to playing Xbox games for several hours at a time.
And Edwin Domingo, his recreation therapist at City of Hope, encourages Sanchez. He even joins in for a few rounds on occasion.
“Video games, in combination with other types of recreation therapy, can be an instrumental component of the cancer treatment,” Domingo said. “Many still read books, play cards and board games, but the younger generation of patients is definitely more engaged with Playstations, Xboxes and Wiis.”
|Patient Jorge Sanchez, right, challenges his recreation therapist, Edwin Domingo, to a video game. (Darrin S. Joy)|
But these forms of play aren’t just for fun, according to Domingo and the American Therapeutic Recreation Association. Recreational activity promotes and maintains patients’ “cognitive and social functions, improving their quality of life through leisure and helping them cope with the stress that comes from being hospitalized,” Domingo said.
Domingo also said that recreational activities are useful for assessing patients’ needs and emotions.
“Depending on the patients’ favorite games, I can tell if they are into competitive versus cooperative play, or individual versus group activities, and I can tailor the therapy sessions to reflect those preferences to give them the maximum benefit,” said Domingo. He works with patients two to three times a week for 15 to 60 minutes per session.
Recreation therapy also helps caretakers and loved ones, Sanchez noted.
“When my brothers visit, we may play video games for a while, or I can show them a card game that Edwin taught me. It definitely helps take our minds off my diagnosis, and makes the day go by a lot quicker,” Sanchez said.
Domingo said he’s seen good results from the recreation therapy program, and he’s working on purchasing the Nintendo Wii system, which will encourage patients to get some physical activity by simulating pitching curve balls, rocking out on a guitar and even performing surgical procedures.
“Everyone knows the value and importance of leisure, but for patients at City of Hope, it’s even more important,” Domingo said. “Recreation therapy educates patients to maintain a positive outlook and find ways to brighten up their daily lives, and our team strives to achieve that goal every day.”