Former state senator, now COVID-19 survivor, donates iPads to RGH |

Former state senator, now COVID-19 survivor, donates iPads to RGH

Jennifer Ly
Created: June 11, 2021 08:57 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — One of the biggest challenges during the height of the coronavirus pandemic was the inability to visit loved ones, particularly those fighting COVID-19 in the hospital. 

You may recall the story of Ted O’Brien, the former state senator from Rochester who nearly died from COVID-19 last spring. For almost a month, he was hooked up to a ventilator and in a coma. We know that devices such as smartphones and iPads are what keep us connected to the world these days, but in dire, critical times, they are also virtually lifesaving, especially for O’Brien.

When O’Brien was in palliative care fighting for his life due to COVID-19, there was one thing he says kept him going. 

"Even in a coma, I was having this persistent dream that I thought I might not make it through," O'Brien said. "In my dream, I heard the voices of family members and felt this sense of relief that I think was a critical part in my being able to recover."

He was, indeed, hearing voices, and they all came from video messaging features on a smart device from one of his doctors caring for him, Dr. Adam Herman. 

"One day, I walked in with my phone and helped them connect through FaceTime and other video support systems, and that really made all the difference," Herman, who specializes in geriatric medicine, hospice and palliative medicine, and internal medicine at Rochester Regional Health, said. 

Because of the intensity of COVID-19 and the strict isolation rules, frustration and stress grew for O’Brien’s family.

"There are no words to describe when you cannot be with your loved one at the bedside when you want to be or even just to explain to the staff who he is, who's that person in the bed, so they know who they're taking care of," O'Brien's wife, Sue, said.

The COVID-19 survivor says the technology was critical during his fight and wants to ensure others who are in a similar position have the same chance. 

The O'Briens established the Ted and Sue O’Brien Patient/Family Connection Fund. The fund provides iPads to patients who need them to communicate with family members who cannot physically be with them in the hospital.

"That was very important and critical to my be able to hear the voices of my family when I couldn't have visitors, and I was in the Intensive Care Unit," O’Brien said. "We think this is going to be very helpful to patients in the future."

The Ted and Sue O'Brien Patient/Family Connection Fund has already raised more than $41,500 in support of digital communication devices and telehealth resources. 

The goal is to endow the fund at a minimum of $100,000 so that the fund can utilize 5% of the fund annually, in perpetuity, in support of this crucially needed technology.

Learn about the fund or donate here

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