Leukemia Survivor Developed 3D Animation to Help Train Oncology Nurses

Wednesday, August 16, 2017
Ryan Berardi standing in front of some of his 3D animation images. - PHOTO COURTESY OF RYAN BERARDI
Ryan Berardi standing in front of some of his 3D animation images. - PHOTO COURTESY OF RYAN BERARDI
Artist Ryan Berardi’s work goes way beyond pretty pictures. In fact, his 3D animations of what can go wrong during chemotherapy paint a horrific scene.

Berardi got firsthand experience with chemo after being diagnosed with  acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) at 17. He then combined his experience of cancer with his artistic talents  to create a 3D animation that helps oncology nurses avoid giving patients the wrong chemo medications. If they make a mistake, the tool can help nurses see where they went wrong to  prevent future mistakes.

“This study of anatomy, alongside my cancer treatment for leukemia led me to develop a love for medicine and the human body,” Berardi said in an interview with CURE.

Berardi, now 25 years old, graduated from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia with a degree in sculpting, before moving on to the University of Dundee in Scotland, where he is working toward an MSc in Medical Art. Together with Dr. Fiona Hogg, a plastic surgeon consultant at Ninewells Hospital, NHS Tayside, he worked on the project.

The animation shows an image of the patient’s hand during the infusion, and illustrates what is called an “extravasation”. That happens when the chemotherapy leaks out of a vein and into the surrounding tissue. The animations also and goes over the symptoms and side effects. The animation also walks the health care provider through the stages of the “Flush-Out” technique, which is used to prevent tissue necrosis, or death.

“My hopes for the animation, along with Dr. Fiona Hogg, were to teach medical personnel the Flush-Out Technique in a simple and effective way,” Berardi said.  “Although it was originally intended to be purely for medical professionals, I have shown it to people who have no medical background and they have commented how educational the animation is.

“I believe certain aspects of it therefore can possibly be used for patient education possibly during a vesicant infusion, or even family members who are witnesses to the infusion.”

Berardi was diagnosed with ALL at the beginning of his senior year of high school and underwent six months of intensive chemotherapy, during which he received IV injections, spinal taps and bone marrow tests up to five days a week. Then, he had to continue injections – though far less frequently – for three years.

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