Seattle Children’s Hospital creates “Cat Immersion Project” for homesick cancer patient

By Ryan Jaslow

Seattle Children’s Hospital called on its Facebook fans to help improve the stay of a teen girl battling cancer – with the help of cats. Seattle Children’s Hospital’s cancer unit shows they are “Stronger”

On July 19, Seattle Children’s Hospital posted on its Facebook page asking for help with a special project for Maga Barzallo Sockemtickem, a 16-year-old who has cancer. Maga can’t leave her hospital room because of her compromised immune system and what she misses most is her cat, Merry.

So staff members at the hospital decided to make her feel more at home and set out to create a special project to bring “virtual” cats to Maga’s room. “Help us make Maga’s day – post your favorite cat photos to our wall!” the hospital wrote over a picture of Maga (pictured above).

Facebook fans of Seattle Children’s Hospital submitted more than 3,000 pictures of their cats along with well wishes. With more photos than expected, hospital workers got to work on the “Cat Immersion Project,” using recorded purring sounds, sheets and a projector to create a “virtual cat cocoon” for Maga.

“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,” said Maga, according to the hospital’s On the Pulse blog. “Thank you all for your kind words, and well wishing. Its means more then you can ever know.”

Maga had previously spent more than seven months at the hospital in 2011 while waiting for a compatible bone marrow donor, eventually getting at transplant. But she had to come back to the hospital in July for post-transplant treatment, where she’s been away from nearly a month. According to On the Pulse, many cancer patients at Seattle Children’s Hospital are sometimes there for months at a time when undergoing treatment.

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