Life Inside a Digital World for Chronically Ill Teens
As a bedridden kid, Starbright World became my lifeline. And it's where I met the best friend who would change my life IRL.
Illustration by Jun Lin
A week before Christmas in 1999, two cheery Child Life Specialists wearing smiles and ID badges knocked on my hospital room door.
“Hi! I’m Karen! Check this out,” said the enthusiastic Shelly Long doppelganger, as they wheeled in a large computer station with a webcam and a bright, colorful sticker that read: “Starbright World.”
My neighbor, a nine-year-old girl named Kayla, poked her head into my room. “It’s awesome!” she shouted, motioning to the computer before riding off on her IV pole like a scooter into the sunset.
Child Lifers spent the afternoon delivering the clunky unit room to room, each patient getting around 30 minutes of playtime. I was used to playing bedside Nintendo 64, but this was new. They beamed like they were unveiling a gift. It turns out, they were.
I was 12 when the pain started. It came without warning, gripping my gut like a gunshot wound. At first it came and went, but by the time I was 13 it was constant. After a year and a half of misdi…
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