Giving back to those who changed our lives: UK’s Evelina Children’s Hospital and Xbox 360

Guest post by Nick Rooke, Microsoft UK

2 years ago my youngest daughter – Isobel – was born with a
double heart condition – pulmonary atresia with
VSD
. Since it wasn’t diagnosed before birth a frantic 48 hours ensued at 3
different hospitals until she eventually got diagnosed correctly, got the
correct treatment and was moved to the Evelina
Children’s Hospital
in London. Since then she’s had 2 operations and is now
doing really well, turning 2 years old just a few months ago….

So once she’d had her second operation and things looked
better long term I wondered how I might be able to give something back to those
people who had helped her. I’m not the kind of guy who likes to run 50
marathons (as my team will no doubt attest J) but I did wonder whether I could
maybe use some of the other opportunities I had access to in order to help.
Rehabilitation obviously plays a key part in the recovery of heart patients,
and rehabilitation through play is a vital element of that, particularly for
kids. The Evelina itself has dedicated play specialists who help the kids every
day in just such a capacity.

I noticed that the hospital had gaming equipment but it was
pretty run down and wasn’t getting much use as a result, so I approached
Stephen McGill of our UK Xbox team to see if there was something he could do to
help. Stephen was fantastically enthusiastic in wanting to help and said “yes”
straight away, bringing in his team to pick up the project. I couldn’t have
asked for more.

As a result the UK Xbox team spent a year working on a plan
to bring Xbox gaming to the children staying at and visiting the Evelina
Children’s Hospital for treatment.  The team helped to design and produce
7 bespoke Xbox pods (pictured left) purpose built for use with children.  The pods are
fantastic – their look, feel, size and shape is very child friendly. Additionally
they’re also optimized for use with Kinect which is even better and serves as a
great showcase for our brand and content. 

In November the team organized the official launch at the
hospital in celebration of this charitable donation and it was a chance for all
those who had been involved on the Xbox side to meet and greet the benefactors
of their initiative. Despite the terrible snow storms that hit London that
week, we had a really enthusiastic bunch of kids who made it in for their
appointments and had to be dragged away from the pods by their parents to
return home afterwards.

None of this would have been possible without the passion
and help of Stephen and his entire team (Alex Weller, Lydia Cutland, Laura
Disney and NJ Live/Neon) who helped out with everything from conception through
to deployment. The pods will be maintained and refreshed regularly and stay
there for all kids attending and staying at the hospital (not to mention their
parents) to enjoy and maybe take their mind off some of the worries they have
elsewhere.

Pictured below is my daughter Isobel