By Brielle Coronet
When Bernie Mnemonic enrolled in an English class at the University Center of Missouri (UCM), he never could have foreseen the journey he would be making into the virtual world of Second Life. Much like taking the scenic route on a drive in real life, Bernie found himself off the beaten path.
Although he was in school earning credits towards his Medical Technology degree, the English class was required study. Unexpectedly, this particular English professor decided to experiment with teaching in Second Life, and in doing so, Bernie’s life intersected with fate.
A hospital lab tech in real life, Bernie enjoyed this new way of learning. But then, life threw his family a curveball—Bernie’s three year old grandchild Donavynn became ill. It started gradually, with loss of appetite, tiredness, and eventually acute bruising. Finally, in February 2006, Bernie’s grandson got the diagnosis: Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL).
ALL is one of the most common cancer types in children, with the peak age range of 3-5 years old, although it can occur in adolescents, and even adults. Fortunately, over 95% of children with ALL enjoy remission. Treatment usually involves an intensive, multi-drug regimen.
But, Bernie was in the right place at the right time. Some may call it fate or destiny, but Bernie definitely regards it as divine intervention. It was his professor who told Bernie about Health Info Island. There, he met with Carolina Keats who listened to Bernie, and together they set up meetings to further explore his ideas.
You see, as devastating as this diagnosis was, Bernie was not one to sit idly on the sidelines. He decided to become proactive. Bernie and his real life daughter, Dophin’s Writer began investigating Second Life, visiting such sites as Rachelville, and Info Island. What they saw impressed them, and they realized that their real life catalyst could yield a positive outcome. They saw potential for helping other parents of children dealing with major health problems, including cancer.
According to Bernie, there is alot of “potential for comprehensive, reliable health information with an interactive component” for other patients and families in Second Life. Indeed, Bernie and his daughter both envision a child friendly area with quality consumer health level information for parents.
Pushing the idea to its limits, Bernie also hopes to invite child avatars to accompany their parents to the site so that the children can, for a moment, feel free from illness. He also would like to include an information arena for children and their parents to learn about the procedures and treatments they will be experiencing.
As Bernie puts it, he dreams “of a place of hope as well as knowledge…a place to learn but also a place to escape and have fun.”
We dream that with him.