“We are so happy for Alec. REX allowed him to interact with some of his soccer heroes and experience the outside world, even if just for a while.”
Robot helps teen soccer player visit Sporting KC practice without leaving the hospital
Alec Hebblethwaite, a 14-year-old soccer player who has been confined to a hospital room for more than 100 days, escaped the four walls of his room at Children’s Mercy last week without leaving the hospital with the help of REX the Robot.
From his room on 2 Henson, Alec used an iPad to drive Rex, a remote experience robot, around a Sporting KC practice at the Children’s Mercy Training Facility, home of Sporting’s training and practice fields at Swope Park. He met and talked with players and Coach Peter Vermes, got a signed scarf, and even a pair of cleats autographed by players.
Alec has been an inpatient since July 13—including seven weeks in Springfield, Missouri, prior to coming to Children’s Mercy—due to a complicated case of esophageal perforation. He is a huge soccer fan who has played the sport since age 4.
“He’s been hospitalized so long, so we are really glad we were able to provide an extraordinary experience like this for him,” said Missy Stover, CCLS, Manager-Child Life Volunteer and Therapeutic programs. “It was a perfect fit since soccer is such a big part of his life. It was a great way to lift his spirits and give him something to look forward to. Now he has this amazing experience to look back on and share with his friends and family.”
REX is an iPad on a pole with a pair of self-balancing wheels. It allows patients to see live video and hear live audio. Alex used the iPad to guide REX around the facility during the practice. After practice, he got to hang out with Sporting KC defender Seth Sinovic.
While chatting, Alec asked Seth if he had any old cleats he could have. Seth not only offered up a pair of cleats, but passed them around to other players to sign. John Baker, Senior Network Analyst in the CM Telemedicine Department (who accompanied REX to the practice) delivered the cleats to Alec.
Alec also did a bit of investigative sports journalism, asking Coach Vermes if he was sad about former Sporting KC player Dom Dwyer being traded to Orlando!
“We are so happy for Alec,” Missy said. “REX allowed him to interact with some of his soccer heroes and experience the outside world, even if just for a while.”
Click these links to learn more about REX, Child Life at Children's Mercy, our Sports Medicine Center and our partnership with Sporting KC.