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Cyber-surrogate gives ailing teen a chance to experience high school

8:19 AM, Jan 21, 2011   |    comments
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Lyndon Baty has been fighting all his life.

He suffers from Polycystic Kidney Disease and has virtually no immune system.

Doing normal things, like going to school, used to be impossible.

"All of last year, I was either in the hospital or at home doing all my work. I had no social interaction whatsoever," he says.

Now, new robotic technology is making it possible for Lyndon to do what he's always wanted to do-be in class, with his friends.

"It's absolutely amazing," says Lyndon. "I would have never thought when I was sick that I would ever have any interaction, much less this kind. It is just like I am there in the classroom."

It was by a chance phone call Administrators at Texas' Knox City Independent School District came across the technology known as VGO.

"We had a salesmen call on us, and said 'we have this product, we're not exactly how it would work in the school, but we want you to see it'," said Mike Campbell, the Education Specialist for Technology.

Now that they have the VGO for Lyndon, school officials say it reminds them why they started teaching in the first place.

"This is one of those occasions where we see a dramatic improvement of a student who wasn't able to go to school," explained Campbell, "but now as a result of the technology, Lyndon has been able to attend class. That's something that most of us take for granted."

"When he's able to be in there, and hear what everyone's opinion is, plus the teachers, and hear all the classroom discussion, he gets that," said Sheri Baty, Lyndon's mother. "That's incredible to see and see in his eyes. That's invaluable as a parent to see he's getting that."

While learning directly from his teachers is great, Lyndon says what he loves most is just being able to interact with kids his age.

"My best friends were my parents. No offense against them, but I want other friends," said Lyndon.

"I feel like I'm right there," continued Lyndon, "like I'm right at the school."

"He has a reason to get up," said Sheri, "He gets up, takes his medicine, eats. He's sitting and waiting for that school bell to ring."

The VGO unit Lyndon uses has a price tag of just over $5,000 and a battery life of 8 hours.

According to the company that makes it, VGO Communications, it's the only unit currently in use at a Texas school.

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