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Many patients dying of COVID-19 never get to say goodbye.
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In an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus, hospitals are not allowing family and friends to visit and comfort their loved ones in their final hours. One volunteer is trying to give families those final moments back — using tablets.
For the last two weeks, Noah Hano has been buying tablets to donate to local hospitals, so that dying coronavirus patients can connect with their families. He has purchased, set up, and delivered roughly 50 tablets to eight hospitals around New England, including Brigham and Women’s in Boston, Mercy Hospital in Springfield, and Newton-Wellesley Hospital in Newton.
The idea came from Hano’s friend who works as a nurse practitioner at Beverly Hospital and posted a call for donations of tablets, phones, or anything else that would enable families to communicate with isolated COVID-19 patients. Some doctors and nurses have also called for cell phones and chargers. Hano initially bought seven tablets and set them up with basic video calling platforms, like FaceTime, Skype, and Zoom. He delivered them to the hospital the next day, and decided to use the momentum he’d already gathered to start a fundraising campaign to purchase and distribute more tablets. Hano’s goal is to raise $30,000.
“People are all alone when they arrive at the emergency room, because there aren’t any visitors allowed in the hospital, and some come with phones that the battery might be dead, or they might not come with a phone at all, especially some of the elderly patients,” said Hano. “There’s no way for families to communicate…[a video call] really is the only way to say goodbye to their loved one.”
Hano says that he’s heard of nurses in some hospitals using their own personal phones to facilitate these goodbye calls. He says this is an imperfect solution, as sharing their personal phones with patients could increase their own risk of infection. Using donated tablets also means that hospitals can conduct some internal operations virtually — for instance, a doctor inside a contaminated zone could use it to consult with a doctor outside the contaminated zone without having to remove or waste personal protective equipment.
Currently, Hano is using the funds from his Facebook campaign to purchase Amazon Fire 7 tablets, which he can get for $49 and set up himself, occasionally with some help from his daughters. He’s ordered over 150 tablets, and has also connected with volunteers in Washington state and New Jersey who are interested in replicating his donation efforts. Hano works as a real estate developer, and he says this is the first time he’s organized a charity campaign like this.
“If we’re going to make it through this, everybody can do something. We’re not powerless,” said Hano. “Whether it’s staying at home and that’s the most important thing, or reaching out to somebody that’s elderly that might be alone — everybody has something to give, and that’s kind of what I’ve learned from this process. And just give it a shot.”