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“Cat Immersion Project” Brings Feline Love to Teen’s Hospital Bed

A call for cute cat photos brought the Internet together to boost a 16-year-old cancer patient's spirits.

JaneA Kelley  |  Aug 13th 2012


I know I’m a little late to the party with this story, but I couldn’t not share it with everyone. It all started last month, when 16-year-old Maga Barzallo Sockemtickem was admitted to Seattle Children’s Hospital for treatment of a complication arising from a bone marrow transplant she received last year.

Because her immune system is compromised from the treatment, she can’t leave the hospital and she can’t enjoy the company of her beloved cat, Merry.

She shared her feelings with artist-in-residence John Blalock. It’s common knowledge that the best nonmedical way to help patients recover from their illness is to keep their morale up. Blalock wondered what he could do to boost Maga’s spirits.

Later, Blalock had a brainstorm: If Maga couldn’t be with her cat, why not bring the cats to her? Thus, the Cat Immersion Project began.

He started by asking staff members for photos of their cats, but he knew that in order to get a real show going, he was going to have to take it bigger. And since, as we all know, the Internet is made of cats, what better place to ask than on SCH’s Facebook page?

The post went viral, and before he knew it, thousands of cat pictures were pouring into the Facebook page, e-mail, and everywhere else you could imagine. People even sent printed photos of their cats.

On July 25, Blalock put together a tent, a laptop computer, and a projector, and Maga was treated to a three-hour slideshow of cats from all over the world, accompanied by a soundtrack of purrs.

“I can’t tell you how it feels sometimes, feeling disconnected and cut off from the world, and then with something like cat pictures bringing me back,” said Maga, according to the hospital’s On the Pulse blog. “Thank you all for your kind words, and well wishing. Its means more then you can ever know.”

If you want to be moved to happy tears, check out the video of Maga’s Cat Immersion Project experience.


In a reader? Watch the video here.

Sources: CBS News, NPR “Shots” health blog
Images: Screen captures from Seattle Children’s Hospital video

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