Using magic tricks as therapy for sick children

Harrison Pravder is a fourth-year med student doing magic. He is the cofounder of MagicAid, an organization dedicated to improving life at the hospital for children through performing and teaching magic.

"My first time interacting with a patient was through magic probably a month into medical school," he said.

So each week, the aspiring pediatric anesthesiologist trades his books for his bag of tricks and goes room to room performing magic. The organization has trained more than 300 volunteers, most of them medical students who help give kids some control in an environment they usually have no control in.

"It helps them break the ice, helps them improve communication skills and at the same time it empowers the patient to not just feel better but the hope to feel better," Pravder said.

Since MagicAid started magic therapy at Stony Brook, medical students significantly reduced the anxiety of pediatric patients and their caregivers by 25%. Right now, magic therapy is being offered at four hospitals in the tristate area. MagicAid plans to expand the program nationally.

"It's really a continued impact where it's not just in the moment that the child really alleviates anxiety and decrease stress but it lasts up to an hour," Pravder said. "And anecdotally, we see it lasts for a day and even the hope going forward."

Any distraction helps David Balderas, 14, who is undergoing chemotherapy to treat brain cancer.

"It made me feel a little better because everyone coming in here talking to me made me feel like you support me," Balderas said.

Love and laughter help improve a patient's outcome.


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