Racing game helps semi-paralysed patient drive again

PHOTO: Racing game helps semi-paralysed patient drive again

SINGAPORE - When a fall left him with a damaged spine, Mr Winfield Lim was too frail to walk - let alone drive.

Now, the sales executive has managed to get back on the road with the help of a computer game called Gran Turismo 5.

The 33-year-old regained his driver's licence last month after spending hours playing on the Sony PlayStation 3 as part of his rehabilitation at Tan Tock Seng Hospital. "Because I enjoy the game, I look forward to coming for therapy," he said.

Mr Lim was left semi-paralysed from the chest down after falling in his home in June.

This meant he had to retake his driving test before he was allowed back on the road - something that was essential for his work.

Each gaming session at the hospital lasted for about half an hour, under the watchful eye of senior occupational therapist Ernest Thia.

He also did 90 minutes of regular therapy, such as walking exercises, each session.

To make sure the patient was prepared for real-life road conditions, Mr Thia asked him to keep to certain rules, such as not driving faster than 50kmh.

"This game is actually meant for racing, so I have to put in some restrictors," said the therapist. While playing, Mr Lim used a steering wheel and pedals hooked up to the gaming console, instead of a typical controller.

This meant that his reaction time, coordination and pedal control could be monitored in a low-risk environment. "It might not be safe, at that point in time, for him to go onto the road for tests," Mr Thia added.

Mr Lim - who is now walking almost normally - said the unusual therapy helped to instil confidence during his recovery. "I was really down," he recalled. "But the game brightened up my days.

"Because when you are playing, you are having fun. There is laughter all around, even from patients who are just watching me."

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