Apps help calm children, teach brains

Patients gain comfort with technology



Joey Lewallen reached out his finger and poked the wheelchair into whirling while he and Jami Wolfe laughed.

“You did an awesome job,” Wolfe said, high-fiving the 6-year-old Bath boy after they worked through the presurgery consultation app on her iPad before he went back for surgery on his left elbow at Children’s Hospital of Georgia. The app walks a child through the process.

“Do you want to make the elevator go up?” asked Wolfe, a Child Life Specialist. Joey nodded. “Tap that button.”

There is a slidewhistle sound and Joey laughed.

“Ooh it went up,” Wolfe said. Following through the steps, Joey can express his preferences for color of gown (yellow) and anesthetic gas flavoring (grape) and get a preview of the room where he will stay overnight and the nearby playroom with an Xbox.

“Where’s the Xbox?” Joey said as Wolfe zoomed in on the photo to show him.

The app replaces a scrapbook that Child Life used to help children understand the surgery process and relieve any anxiety about what was coming, Wolfe said.

“Now it’s something interactive, it’s new technology, and it’s something that they remember,” she said. In fact, the app almost works too well, Wolfe said.

“Sometimes the hardest thing for me is getting back (the iPad) because there is so much that they want to continue doing on it,” she said, laughing.

The app, created by the Educational and Collaborative Technology department at Georgia Regents University, was followed by one explaining allergy skin testing for pediatric allergy patients, said Director Jeff Mastromonico. Because those tests can cause itching as well, the GRU developers also created games to help kids deal with that, he said.

“They need something to do with their hands,” Mastromonico said. “So we came up with the idea of iPad games” called Allergen Alert and EPI-GERMIS.

The unit also decided to tackle the problem of post-surgery instructions for kidney transplant patients at GRU.

“They had basically just a stack of papers that they would give patients as post-operation instructions,” Mastromonico said. “We came up with something that was interactive that they could go through, that they had to pay attention to the content.”

Making it interactive is the key to making sure the patients do get the instructions, he said.

“They can’t really zone out,“ Mastromonico said. “They have to pay attention.”

It’s also helping the health care system and the university talk to the younger generation that is more comfortable with touch-screen technology, which Mastromonico said he sees in his children.

“Even the 4-year-old, I’m amazed at how he really needs no direction when he wants to play something on my phone or the iPad,” he said.

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If you would like to see the apps created by the Educational and Collaborative Technology department at Georgia Regents University, go to its Web site at:



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