A few years ago, I interviewed local insurance company owner, Chris O'Neil, to discuss the anniversary of the worst nightclub fire in Massachusetts history at the Coconut Grove, that took the lives of his grandmother and grandfather in Boston.

In their memory, a gift of virtual reality technology has been given to Southcoast Health, courtesy of the Thomas H. and Catherine D. O’Neil Charitable Foundation. The technology will be utilized to help mitigate patient pain and anxiety both leading up to and during medical procedures.

The donation was presented by the grandchildren of Thomas and Catherine O’Neil at St. Luke’s Hospital on the 76th anniversary of Boston’s Coconut Grove Fire. Thomas and Catherine were among the 492 individuals killed on November 28, 1942 in the historic blaze.

To honor their memory, in 2012, one of Thomas and Catherine’s grandchildren, Chris O’Neil, created the Foundation as a way to honor the victims of the fire while also helping those suffering from painful injuries, particularly burn victims and pediatric patients. Chris says, “I wanted to bring some good where a lot of pain had once been, that the lives lost were not in vain. We can make an impact with the O’Neil Foundation.”

Stephen Preston/Southcoast Health

The virtual reality system will be the first such technology utilized by Southcoast Health. The system will be used to manage patient pain, first at the Southcoast Health Wound Center at St. Luke’s Hospital, with plans to incorporate its use into other service areas at Southcoast moving forward. “The opportunity for our Foundation to provide this technology to Southcoast has brought a lot of excitement versus a simple cash donation,” Chris says. “We get a chance to be part of a new way of helping people.”

Stephen Preston/Southcoast Health

“We are incredibly grateful to the Thomas H. and Catherine D. O’Neil Charitable Foundation for this generous and innovative donation of technology, which benefits our patients who are suffering from painful injuries and illnesses,” said Keith A. Hovan, President & CEO of Southcoast Health. “As a not-for-profit healthcare system, we rely on the generosity of so many within our community to help provide our patients with the best care and attention possible. Virtual reality pain mitigation will be a great tool for our providers and physicians to offer to our patients.”

Chris, a New Bedford native, is excited to be helping patients in his own backyard: “Southcoast Health is always investing in cutting edge health technology and has been so supportive to our family over the years; it was time for us to help contribute in some way.”

The O’Neil Foundation gift was made in memory of Dr. Charles Eades, one of the Foundation’s most generous supporters.

Phil Paleologos is the host of The Phil Paleologos Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. Contact him at phil@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @PhilPaleologos. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.