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A Gamer Helps Kids Like Her Son Through Extra Life


First-year Extra Life participant Nicole Ryan can’t imagine where her son Jacob would be today without the help of Boston Children’s Hospital, a Children’s Miracle Network Hospital.

Jacob is a 7-year-old boy in second grade who loves his service poodle, trains, bridges, tunnels and his iPad. He is funny, loving, curious, open-hearted, caring, sweet, sassy, challenging. He also happens to be autistic.

Two years ago her formerly cheerful and sweet boy had suddenly turned anything but. Outbursts became a daily occurrence, some of them violent and deeply scary. A particularly violent episode one day left Nicole calling 911 for an ambulance. At her request, they took her to Boston Children’s Hospital.

“The team at BCH carefully discussed options with us, ruled out physical illnesses, involved every appropriate service that could help him and guide with compassion and clarity. My son, just 5 years old at the time, needed psychiatric hospitalization. They stood by and found a bed for him in an appropriate unit elsewhere and made sure that as his parents, we understood what this would mean and what to expect,” says Nicole.

Jacob spent two weeks in a pediatric psychiatric unit that specializes in children with cognitive disorders like autism. He was diagnosed with a co-morbid condition called disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (DMDD). Treatment began and continued when he came home.

“It was like seeing my son anew all over again when he came home. His smile returned. His loving nature shone like a star. He found his words again and has had ever so much to tell us since.”

Mental health issues and mental illness, especially in children, is an important issue in the gaming community. Nicole joined Extra Life as a way to give back to the hospital who helped her, as well as help other families who need support and services to local families.

Through her love of gaming, Nicole and 50,000 others like her play games and raise funds for their local Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Extra Life is a year-long fundraising program. Participants choose how and when they want to play games, and ask friends and family to donate to their efforts. All funds stay local to benefit local kids like Jacob.