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A robot whose sole purpose is to connect emotionally with cancer patients. It's working, too.

Even the nurses were a little skeptical at first, but when Huggable started doing its job...

A robot whose sole purpose is to connect emotionally with cancer patients. It's working, too.
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America, meet your robot overlord.

Its name is Huggable.


Huggable is the MIT-created robot with a crazy kid voice that hangs out in pediatric cancer wards.

Huggable operates on an Android app. Yep! That's a phone inside its head. It can signal emotions in its movement. It can tell when you're touching it. Eventually, its hand will be able to sense pressure. If you squeeze its hand, technically Huggable could sense your pain.

NOT SO FAST, MR. HAWKING

"Huggable's purpose is to interact on an emotional level with children."
— Luke Plummer, MIT robotics engineer

Huggable is so emotionally supportive, it will gleefully listen to dad jokes.

AND LOVE IT.

What do eggs do for fun? Kara-YOLK-e! Get it?!

Yes, that just happened.

"Why do these kids with cancer need a teddy bear?!?" — something a very dark part of my inner monologue just said to me.

Well, here's the thing.

Kids with cancer UNDERREPORT how traumatized they are by having cancer.

From Medscape (emphasis mine):

The stress of treatment could cause a range of chronic problems, from phobia and anxiety for minor medical procedures, such as blood taking, to panic attack under difficult conditions. This view is further supported by studies focused on stress in children during the treatment for cancer.

On the contrary, other studies suggest that even though the nursing and medical staff perceive more patient distress, the self-reported anxiety in children with cancer is low.

Around 20% of childhood cancer sufferers are diagnosed with PTSD.

And many more suffer from emotional problems in school, in relationships, and beyond AFTER they beat cancer. AFTER they fight the hardest battle humans fight — the battle of beating a disease that's trying to kill you.

Children's cancer wards are full of amazing kids being strong for their families but really suffering on the inside.

They're suffering in ways their families and supporters can see but can't help.

Maybe when you were young, you'd tell your secrets to your teddy bear, like mine named Fish. This is like that but SO. MUCH. MORE. POWERFUL.

Huggable the robot is a teddy bear that supports kids in ways grown-up humans just haven't been able to.

Angelic pediatric cancer nurses, what do YOU think?

MR. HAWKING, YOU WERE RIGHT!

Wait...

So, are robots the end of the human race?

I don't think so. In the form of bots like Huggable, robots are the beginning of something much more positive. They're the beginning of a whole new era of medical advancements that don't alienate us from each other, but bring us closer by teaching us more about ourselves.

Nurses, family, and support systems are so important to cancer patients. But just like the X-ray helped human doctors treat disease, a robot like Huggable will help those human doctors treat the very serious emotional and psychological damage caused by cancer.


boop!

This lil' robot named Huggable is good for us humans.

More hospitals and medical providers need to know about the emotional suffering these strong kids are going through.

I'm sharing this in the hopes that some families out there can use this info to get better care for their kids.

<3

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less

Researchers at Harvard University have studied the connection between spanking and kids' brain development for the first time, and their findings echo what studies have indicated for years: Spanking isn't good for children.

Comments on this article will no doubt be filled with people who a) say they were spanked and "turned out fine" or b) say that the reason kids are [fill in the blank with some societal ill] these days are because they aren't spanked. However, a growing body of research points to spanking creating more problems than it solves.

"We know that children whose families use corporal punishment are more likely to develop anxiety, depression, behavior problems, and other mental health problems, but many people don't think about spanking as a form of violence," said Katie A. McLaughlin, director of the Stress & Development Lab in the Department of Psychology, and the senior researcher on the study which was published Friday in the journal Child Development. "In this study, we wanted to examine whether there was an impact of spanking at a neurobiological level, in terms of how the brain is developing."

You can read the entire study here, but the gist is that kids' brain activity was measured using an MRI machine as they reacted to photos of actors displaying "fearful" and "neutral" faces. What researchers found was that kids who had been spanked had similar brain neural responses to fearful faces as kids who had been abused.

"There were no regions of the brain where activation to fearful relative to neutral faces differed between children who were abused and children who were spanked," the authors wrote in a statement.

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less