Thousands of coronavirus patients will benefit from a new project where they are given iPads to communicate with relatives while in intensive care.
Patients across the country have used the devices as relatives are banned from many wards which are filling up fast during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The iComms for ICUs Project has so far delivered 200 iPads across the country which has helped over 1,000 people, but they plan to distribute many more.
In the most tragic cases the devices will be used by patients saying goodbye to their loved ones for the last time.
Maeve Bradbury, the project’s founder, told Sky News: It must be so frustrating as a medic, when your job is all about making people better, but at the end, in very difficult, harrowing circumstances, you can’t help them with that one thing they want more than anything else – which is to be able to talk to their loved ones.
So actually for the staff, there’s a little element of being able to lighten the load for them.
The project will help people similar to Matt Dockray, 39, who fought for his life after being struck down with coronavirus.
Mr Dockray, who was strapped to a ventilator, told Sky News that at one point he thought he may never be with his family ever again.
He continued: You are completely cut off from anything outside. You can’t speak to anyone, there’s no friends there, and no one can hold your hand. You’re in isolation, in a little room, left by yourself.
The technology is a hand-hold. It is that conversation where someone can say ‘I love you’ or ‘I’m thinking about you’ which a text message doesn’t do.
There’s nothing more than that virtual hug just to let you know that they’re thinking of you, and it’s OK.
It sets your tears off, but it makes a huge difference. It helps you a lot.
Mr Dockray’s mother, who feared the worst for her son, has said video calling was crucial for her while he was in care.
She said: It meant the world to me as your mum. It was heartbreaking. I went away and cried afterwards. But to actually see you, especially when you can’t touch you, or go to the hospital and see you, to see you on the screen, it gave us hope.
His father added: If we’d just had the sound, without the video, without being able to see you, all we’d have really heard was how bad your breathing was and how terrible you were. So to be able to see you at the same time made a big difference.
Dr Rowan Burnstein, an intensive care unit consultant at Addenbrooke Hospital in Cambridge, said: We use them for the initial contact with families and show them what’s happening in intensive care.
Once the patients are settled we can allow the family to see their loved ones and we can bring the iPad up to the patient’s ear.
Once the patients start waking up, they can use the iPads themselves as a communication tool with nurses to show if they are in pain.
(c) Sky News 2020: Coronavirus: Intensive care patients given iPads to speak to relatives