Cork Apple staff's donation of iPads offers comfort at a difficult time

Over the past year, Apple employees have supported a number of initiatives at CUH and CUMH. Maeve Lee examines the benefits this assistance has had on patients and staff at the facilities.
Cork Apple staff's donation of iPads offers comfort at a difficult time

The entrance to the reception of Apple’s plant at Hollyhill on the northside of city. Picture: Dan Linehan

APPLE employees have supported a number of initiatives at Cork University Hospital in the past year, starting with the donation of iPads during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic and including the Baby Steps Appeal in aid of the Neonatal Family Sanctum and the Strike Against Stroke appeal.

This past year, volunteering hours increased almost 450% from the year prior, as Apple employees stepped up to support Irish charities at a time when traditional fundraising activities had to be cancelled due to Covid-19.

Following on from what was a landmark year for Apple’s employee giving programme with more than €2m for charities across Ireland throughout 2020, Cork University Hospital discusses the importance of some of its projects, their potential impact and the progress since appeals were launched last year.

One aspect which has already revealed itself as of great benefit to patients, families and staff alike is the donation of iPads which facilitated connections between patients, staff and family members, some joyful reunions from near and far, as well as some heartbreaking goodbyes between friends, family and even pets.

During the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown in Ireland, iPads were donated to CUH to help facilitate patient and family communication while visitors were not permitted.

The implementation of the iPads began within the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU). However, the iPads are now also been used across other areas of the hospital.

A year on from the donations of the iPads, Michael Nason CEO of CUH Charity recalled the early days of the pandemic and the initial implementation of the new communication link that was created with the introduction of the technology.

“In the early stages, there were some very harrowing stories of people who were obviously going to die in the hospital from Covid and who couldn’t have visitors and I guess creating a process of the iPad enabled people to at least communicate in some fashion with family; photographs were shared, and I heard stories where farmers were saying goodbye to cattle.

“At such a time, it was great to have a company like Apple and some of their partners who were able to help us very quickly make these solutions happen.”

He continued: “You’re recalling times where a daughter in Canada is talking to a mother who is going to die or a father who is going to die — it doesn’t matter the jurisdiction. It could be someone in Dublin, it could be someone who was living in Bishopstown saying goodbye to someone,” he added.

Nurse Breda Doyle helped to facilitate the roll-out of the iPads in the Intensive Care setting.

Ms Doyle also noted the difficult early stages of the pandemic and its impact on patients, families and staff.

“The early days were very challenging because Covid was such a new entity and we weren’t sure what we were dealing with but we knew that visitors wouldn’t be permitted in the hospitals just to protect both patients, staff and to reduce the further spread of Covid-19.

“We knew that was having a huge impact on both the patients and their families and also, it was quite difficult for the healthcare staff because ordinarily, we would have very close family of a patient in the intensive care unit,” she explained.

“We went from very flexible visiting to no visiting and understandably, people were very upset initially…and even though people understood why they couldn’t visit, that didn’t make it any easier.”

The entrance to the reception of Apple’s plant at Hollyhill on the northside of city.	Picture: Dan Linehan
The entrance to the reception of Apple’s plant at Hollyhill on the northside of city. Picture: Dan Linehan

She said that the introduction of the video calls did “alleviate a lot of the distress that families were experiencing”.

“I think being able to see the patient was very useful for the families and alleviated a lot of the emotional aspect of not being able to see the patient.”

She said it was also great for staff to see the patient respond as they heard the voice of a family member and being able to see their loved one much more than they would when interacting with healthcare staff.

“We were able to assess the patient better as well based on their responses to their families and obviously, we were witnessing a lot of very emotional scenes where families were getting to see other family members from other parts of the world.

“There were lots of tears of joy and obviously tears of upset initially,” she added.

She said that the first calls were “the most difficult” as staff had to describe the scene to family before they saw the patients in the video calls.

“It’s important to prepare the family for what they are going to see because they may not have seen the patient since they went to hospital.”

While some family members utilised the calls for updates, others were sadly saying goodbyes to loved ones.

“In some cases, families were invited to come in on compassionate grounds for end of life care but some families weren’t actually in a position to come in due to illness in the family or I suppose there was a heightened fear of Covid as well so there were some very difficult calls where there was end of life care facilitated for the family to say goodbye.”

However, there were some “light moments” with pets making appearances via video calls.

Ms Doyle recalled a story from a colleague where staff facilitated a call for an elderly gentleman who kissed the screen as soon as he saw his wife appear on a video call.

“It obviously brought him joy to be able to see her, but not in person,” she noted.

She said they were grateful for the opportunity to facilitate the calls at a time that was difficult for many.

“To be able to give us something that we could introduce, it was very important for us and to the families.”

Also noting the benefits of being able to provide such an important element for families, Michael Nason noted the benefit of having access to the technology.

“Sometimes we give out about technology and kids using it and everybody staring at their phone but, in a positive way, if it hadn’t been there and if Apple hadn’t helped us develop that solution, then that would have been a horrible memory for somebody that they didn’t even get to say goodbye to someone.”

Now, the hospital uses iPads across other areas.

“They’re being used for people who don’t have Covid but basically can’t get out of the bed and might be in for a period of time and might want to talk to a loved one or a family member - it’s an easier process for that to happen.

“It also enables clinicians who might want to update a family member who still at the moment can’t come into the hospital as a visitor,” explained Mr Nason.

He said that it provides a level of comfort, especially as in some cases, the family of patients could be in any part of the world.”

“After Covid, some of this learning will be used forever,” he added.

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