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Standing Tall: Traci Nubalo Visits With Vitolo

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My Hubby has been logged into SL for less time for the past year, due to illness. Now that the worst is over, I feel safe to talk about it. Vito underwent some rough surgeries, and he is finally up to the weight the doctors hoped. Journalist Traci Nubalo talked to Vito once he was settled, and she wrote a great article.

Vitolo Rossini: Standing Tall
The Metaverse Tribune
Vito Rossini wore a lot of white hats as an involved citizen of Tucson, Arizona back in 2003. When he left his home that morning in his ice cream truck little did he know that by nightfall he’d be wearing a most horrific new title: TBI victim.
Leaving work that day, he was struck by another vehicle and suffered massive damage to his head.
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is the leading cause of death and disability in Americans ages 1 to 44. It results in approximately 52,000 deaths per year in the United States and a full 2% of the population – about 5.3 million Americans – currently live with disabilities from TBI, according to the Brain Trauma Foundation.
In Vito’s case, he spent 6 ½ weeks in a coma and two more years in rehabilitation. He was left partially paralyzed on his left side, and has serious pain issues. He gets around on a walker, and wears prism glasses to correct chronic double vision.
During the long months in rehab, Vito met his lovely wife Patrizia, a medi-van driver, as she transported him to an appointment. They have been married for four years.
In 2006 Vito discovered Second Life, and immediately found a world where he could do all the things he could no longer do in RL – run, dance, even fly. He got involved in creating and “training” artificial intelligence dogs in SL, and found that he had a knack for the scripting language required to program them.
And, of course, he told other “TBI friends” about SL and they, too, logged on to join him here. Many of them got AI dogs from Vito and a very strange thing began to happen. He began to get reports that his some of his handicapped friends who were working with AI pets in SL were experiencing changes in the way they were dreaming at night. This was usually followed by some degree of measurable positive change in their health and functionality in RL.
It was learned that the “relaxed play” that one engages when interacting with a virtual pet can be a source of healing for the TBI patient. It’s assumed that by lessening the stress of learning via this “relaxed play”, the brain is encouraged to open new and healthier neuronal pathways. In many TBI patients this has resulted in welcome and lasting results. “They sometimes experience an exhilarating feeling of success in their inworld achievements,” says Vito. “And this stimulates them to work even harder and to begin to make progress in other important areas of life.”
I had written a piece about Vito for a Second Life magazine in April of 2011. I decided to revisit Vito “The DogFather” Rossini to see how he is.
Traci Nubalo: Great to see you again, Vito. How have things been going for you since our last visit?
Vitolo Rossini: I’m doing very well, Traci. Thank you. I’m getting better slowly. I spent the last two years – following colon surgery – trying to eat more and gain some weight. I finally hit my target goal of 140 lbs.
TN: Excellent! How did you go about this?
VR: One of the things that has helped me the most is the use of medical marijuana. I guess I’ve become something of an activist in the medical marijuana community, helping others who are also benefiting from such medications.”
Vito has also written a couple of articles in the interim. His topic of choice is the use of virtual worlds to facilitate RL growth and change. In one fascinating piece “Traversing the Real Life Dreamscape in Second Life” Vito discusses the use of “virtual fear abatement techniques for systematic desensitization.” Easy for him to say!
An example of what this means is that Vito has begun helping those with a dread fear of falling by repeatedly getting them to roleplay “falling off” high buildings in Second Life. Over time, their RL fears relax as their anxiety over falling in SL quiets down.
Similarly, he cites a case in which he used another form of the technique to help thirteen disabled friends, all of whom suffered with a chronic, dread fear of dogs. After the fear abatement roleplaying exercises in Second Life nine of the thirteen have relaxed enough that they are now able to own RL service dogs.
I find myself very moved by what this once-broken man has been able to do to help and to serve others, in the midst of his own personal tribulations. It seems certain that most of us might have folded our cards when dealt such a disastrous hand by life. This man’s attitude and infectious good will have left me humbled and hopeful for the rest of us.
As we said goodbye Vito commented: “Life is good. Patty is very good to me. Second Life has made me more able to function in RL. It’s given me direction and made me less afraid of other people. I’m really enjoying helping others learn to use SL as a therapy in their own lives.”
I’m learning that in a world that can beat people down so easily, a man like Vito Rossini becomes a valuable role model, inviting all of us to stand tall beside him.

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