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These virtual experiences are keeping multiple sclerosis patients active and engaged

The Multiple Sclerosis Center at Swedish has adapted its adventure program with the help of virtual reality. Sponsored by Swedish.

SEATTLE — March is MS Awareness Month, and The Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Center at Swedish is giving patients the opportunity to experience a wide range of adventures. They offer programs and classes for patients that help maintain physical fitness, provide emotional support, and build community.

“MS really can touch every part of a person’s life, and that’s why we offer programs and classes that address the mind, body, and spirit for the patients we serve,” said Simon Gale, an occupational therapist at the MS Center. 

As the MS Center’s adventure guide, Gale helps patients participate in recreational activities despite disabilities. These activities are highly individualized to match each patient’s personal interests, lifestyle, and health circumstances. Past adventures for patients include skydiving, hiking, and glassblowing. Patients have also attended sporting events and concerts together. 

“It’s a real honor and pleasure to be able to offer this wide palette of opportunities for our patients,” Gale said. 

Because of COVID-19, the Center has turned to virtual reality and online experiences to help patients. The library of content includes homegrown Pacific Northwest adventures in three categories: 

  • Calming videos that feature serene settings like a rushing waterfall or a sandy beach. These experiences will center more on sounds and sights than on movement.
  • Adventure videos that simulate more strenuous activities and make it seem as if the participant is actually in a kayak, running a trail, or taking part in some other activity that's a stretch for their physical abilities or comfort level.
  • Creative videos are set in a virtual world that allows participants to interact with each other, explore the space in detail, and "paint" on a virtual canvas.

“We can adapt and evolve based on the feedback we receive,” Gale said. “Once we get back out doing adventures again, we’re going to be bringing along the camera and capturing videos that we’ll keep in our library that will be on the headsets.”

Check out Swedish’s MS Center and the Adventure program calendar to join in.

Sponsored by Swedish. Segment Producer Suzie Wiley. Watch New Day Northwest 11 AM weekdays on KING 5 and streaming live on KING5.com. Contact New Day.  

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