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VR games help teen recover from stroke

A local teenager is using computer tech summer camps as part of rehab, after a stroke left him partially paralyzed.

CUMMING, Ga. — Cumming native Theodore Hurst was just 15-years-old when he suffered a stroke, last May. It happened while he was swimming in the neighborhood pool.

“I remember the pool was cold,” Theodore said. “And then I also remember being in the ambulance. That's pretty much the extent of what I remember.”

“It was a full-blown stroke,” Joel Hurst, Theodore’s father, said. “At that time, he couldn't talk. His speech was very slurred, he had no movement on his right side, he had no strength.”

Theodore was rushed to the hospital where he remained in the ICU for several days followed by months of rehabilitation.

“He was doing physical therapy once a week and occupational therapy once a week,” Joel said. “After a while of that, maybe eight months of that, our insurance company denied for the therapy with a letter saying our independent physician reviewer said it's not medically necessary… to which I said ‘okay, our 15-year-old son doesn't need his right side. That's fine, I guess if that's what you think, but we're not going to let that sit.’”

With Theodore still on the road to recovery, the Hurst family was forced to get creative with rehab options.

“My wife and I pretty much work with him every day on the various mobility things with his hand and foot,” Joel said. “I ended up getting certification to train CrossFit, so I could take him to the gym with me and do rehab there.”

Then, earlier this year, they heard about some specialty summer camps that piqued their interest.

RELATED: Coding camps keep kids of all ages learning this summer

“I heard it was a computer coding camp and thought it was right up Theo's alley because it would be a great thing for him to do this summer,” Joel said. “He hadn't had any vacation since he had his stroke. He had gone to school all year, had the stroke at the very end of the school year, then was in the hospital for a month and did rehab for the rest of the summer, then right back to school.”

Theodore enrolled in a variety of camps being offered by Formulating Digital Solutions, and the teen says he’s learning quite a bit.

“The first camp that I took here was the Hack-a-drone camp,” Theodore said. “We 3D designed and printed out bases for drones, then we took apart other drones and put the motors and circuit boards and all that into the new frame that we just designed and printed. After that, it was the programming camp, so we had these little circuit boards where we would do a bunch of cool things on them. The first thing we did was just messing around with lights and whatnot. Then, we built little robots that would move around and stay balanced which was neat.”

Theodore also had access to a virtual reality game set which showed to be very beneficial.

“I did not think about using the VR in this context, but it quickly presented itself,” PK Graff, the founder of Formulating Digital Solutions, said. “The opportunity to teach students is really what I'm looking to do here, but knowing that there's an opportunity to teach a student who’s been through such a traumatic experience makes this business, this opportunity, that much more valuable to the community and to the families that we're working with.”

Theodore’s dad could not agree more.

“I'm very thankful for this. It's been great not only for his continued recovery, but his morale has been great this summer,” Joel said. “It's been a great summer for him. It's been everything we wanted for him to have in a summer.”

Theodore is taking the skills from these camps and applying them at home. He says he’s building his own robot and has even started designing his own video game.

“I would like to continue in computer science, specifically game design,” Theodore said. “I'm building a small game right now. It's just a little project I do in my free time.”

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