Few medical treatments are as grueling as bone marrow transplantation, which can require months of isolation while patients have their own marrow destroyed to allow the transplanted cells to take over. The risk of infection during this period is so great that even an ordinary touch from a loved one could introduce deadly germs.
And so it’s no wonder that Maga Barzallo Sockemtickem, a 16-year-old cancer patient who spent seven months in isolation at Seattle Children’s Hospital in 2011 waiting for a bone marrow donor, before returning this year for another month, found herself missing her pet kitty, Merry. Maga wasn’t allowed to bring Merry into her sterile room safely, so the staff at Children’s went to Facebook for help. On the hospital’s Facebook page, they asked fans to post pictures of their cats for Maga to see: 3,000 cat photos later, the Cat Immersion Project was born.
Using sheets, projectors and the photos sent in by fans, the Children’s staff built a virtual cat cocoon around Maga’s bed, so she could be surrounded by images of playful kitties.
Maga’s response to the project was priceless. As she put it in a note of gratitude to the cat owners who participated:
You guys remind me that there is so much good in the world, and its just makes me feel so much better, and connected. I can’t tell you how it feels sometimes, feeling disconnected and cut off from the world, and then with something like cat pictures bringing me back. Thank you all for your kind words, and well wishing. Its means more then you can ever know. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.