​“We saw such a change in him straight away”

Friday, December 4th, 2020

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For Stewart, the first few months spent in an Intensive Care Unit earlier this year recovering from a respiratory infection were particularly tough. He’d suffered a spinal cord injury many years previously and has no movement in his hands and arms, so with no mobility and limited visiting due to COVID restrictions his days seemed endless.

But his quality of life was transformed by the introduction of a computer he could control by moving his head and chin. He was quickly able to reconnect with friends and family online, catch up on favourite TV and radio shows, and follow his favourite football team again.

“Immediately he was amazing at it,” said Laura Eldridge, the Senior Sister in Critical Care who had initially contacted us for help. “All of the nurses were amazed. We saw such a change in him straight away and his mood was really lifted. He said days flew by and he wasn’t clock-watching any more – he was just loving life.”

The selection, loan and support of Stewart’s computer and assistive technology was provided through our StarGaze Project, which harnesses our expertise in highly specialised technology to help people regain a degree of communication and independence when they need it most, right after a serious accident or sudden illness.

Laura and our StarGaze team worked in partnership to make the intervention possible during COVID restrictions. Gillian, our Senior Occupational Therapist, explains. “We would normally visit patients to assess their needs but because of the current situation, that wasn’t possible. Instead, Laura kindly spent some of her off-duty time telling us about Stewart’s current physical movements and sent us video footage of him showing his range of head movement. We thought the chin joystick set-up might be possible for him, so posted the equipment out.”

Once it arrived, our specialist assessment team had a comprehensive video call training session with Laura and she did a fantastic job setting up the computer, mounting equipment and customised software settings with Stewart.

For Stewart, the technology was a revelation: “To be able to control the tablet myself is unbelievable, it’s given me back a great deal of independence. I’m genuinely thankful for this kind gesture from the amazing SpecialEffect charity.”

Our StarGaze Project is currently supporting around 50 people. Patient confidentiality means you don’t hear as much about this aspect of our work as our video games support, but the impact can be just as life-transforming. As with our video games help, it’s a service provided without charge and for as long as it’s needed.

Acknowledgement: this article features additional information from the related post ’Tablet computer helps disabled patient’ at https://www.kch.nhs.uk/news/public/news/view/31987