Virtual reality makes reality bearable for injured veterans

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Cedrick Givens thought his life was over after a motorcycle accident left him wheelchair bound.

"To hear that you're not going to have your legs anymore, I thought that was the end of everything," he recalls.

But a trip through virtual reality changed his outlook.

James A. Haley VA Hospital is using VR as part of recreational therapy and the results are promising.  

Therapist Jamie Kaplan introduced Givens to the world of virtual reality to help him heal, mentally.

"He relies on me to set him up, but once he's set up he's independent. He's out there and he's moving around a virtual world. It puts everyone on the same playing field," Kaplan explains.

The program lets Givens go for a walk in the woods or go diving in the ocean.

"I've never been underwater, but I can imagine this is what it looks like. This is exactly what it looks like," he described.

Givens says he was into video games before his injury. Now he loves it when gaming scenes move from serene to competitive.

"[Jamie] hooked me up with the one-hand video game controller and I've been able to play a lot of Xbox, a lot of PlayStation, everything like normal," Givens said.

And he wins every time he plays.

"I have a quality of life, or at least I'm learning. I still have a quality of life worth living," he said.

Kaplan says the program also helps veterans like Givens with relaxation and becoming more social.