Watching his daughter go through intense cancer treatment was an unchartered and scary experience for Dom Raban.
He felt helpless as his then 13-year-old daughter didn’t have a clue what was happening to her.
So after she was declared cancer-free, he created an app for children in hospital to help them understand what was going on.
Now Dom is ready to launch the app commercially and he has joined forces with Thinking of Oscar charity to help raise funds for its work in improving paediatric care.
Dom, of Fulwood, says: “When my daughter Issy was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma in 2011, we didn’t have any forewarning.
“She had woken up in pain and our GP thought she had growing pains and told her to take painkillers.
“She continued with the pain and we saw a different GP who referred her to Royal Preston Hospital.
“She had an MRI scan and was referred to Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital but she had to wait at Preston for 10 days until there was a bed free. She was in so much pain, she had to have a morphine drip.
“There was no mention of cancer. The first point we realised was when we entered the oncology ward in Manchester and Issy saw the other children with cancer .
“An investigative operation showed she had Ewing’s Sarcoma and that was the start of a horrendous way of treatment. She had 15 or 16 rounds of chemotherapy, a few operations and countless blood transfusions.
“She also had 10 weeks of proton beam therapy in the US.”
Now aged 20, Issy has been clear of cancer for six years and is in her second year at university.
Following his experience as a parent, Dom, realised children needed to be supported through their treatment.
As he runs Manchester-based digital innovation agency Corporation Pop, he used his expertise to develop Xploro, an interactive mobile application that uses augmented reality, fun gameplay and artificial intelligence to relay information to young patients.
The app, which was initiated in 2015, is currently undergoing a clinical evaluation at the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, with each version being tested with patients, parents and clinicians. It is also set to be used at the Christie Hospital.
The 57-year-old adds: “Issy had some of the best care in the world but she had no prior information about how she would be treated, who she would meet and the technology.
“For example, one day we were on the oncology ward and there was a big machine at the side of Issy’s bed. It was a stem cell harvester but no-one told her what it was and it had failed.
“Once Issy was better, I started thinking about what I could do to help young patients like her, in line with my work in developing software.
“I found a lot of research that said if a patient was given information prior to treatment, it reduces stress and anxiety and it gives better clinical outcomes and long-term engagement with clinicians.
“I spoke to the clinical director of Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, Peter-Marc Fortune, who helped us deign it.
“A child creates an avatar, with a and costume and interacts with it, using 3D models of the hospital, introduces them to staff and talks them through the equipment and machines used.
“There are a series of games, some of which are multi-player, so they can play with other patients.
“I have been given significant funding - £500,000 - to get the app to where it is now and it is now its own company - Xploro.
“I am going to launch it commercially in the summer.”
Keen to help improve children’s experiences in hospitals even further, the father-of-two is working with Hannah and David Cole in supporting their charity Thinking of Oscar, in memory of their 16-month-old son Oscar, who died suddenly in 2014.
Dom met the pair, from Oxford, after launching his Xploro app to help inform children of their treatment and agreed to pedal 500 miles over five days as part of the charity’s #TOO500 event, which is a cycle ride to six children’s hospitals.
The event begins at Oxford Children’s Hospital, where Oscar was treated, on June 12 and riders will cross the finish line on June 16, three days before the fifth anniversary of Oscar’s death, at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire.
Dom says: “I’m a keen cyclist and David’s a triathlete, so we started talking about cycling. He mentioned doing something for the fifth anniversary of Oscar’s death and I offered to get involved.
“I also designed and built the #TOO500 website for free.
“A 100-mile ride is fine, but I’ve not done five days on the trot before.
“A few days of recovery is normally needed after a 100-mile ride, so it will definitely be a challenge.”
The event is open to all and cyclists can sign up for a single day or the whole event.
Entry to the event starts from just £50 for one leg, which is 100 miles and is £560 to take part in the full five-day 500-mile tour.
The aim is to raise £500,000 to improve children’s healthcare in this country.
Dom even helped to plan the route, as he explains: “The ride marks a significant period for Hannah and David it will be an emotional time, and if we get close to the £500,000 target we will all have made a huge impact.”