iPad donation connects families during COVID-19 pandemic

Melissa Varner
September 28, 2020
Alicia holding donated iPad
Nurse Alicia Dollahan holds a donated iPad
Alice in PPE 
Dollahan in personal protective equipment (PPE).

Nurse Alicia Dollahan worked for two months in a COVID intensive care unit (ICU) at MUSC Health. She described the makeshift unit, known as 4C, as a giant room with curtains separating the 14 beds. At one point, she recalled, every single patient was on a ventilator. “Those patients are some of the sickest that I have ever seen,” Dollahan said.

Although the days were physically demanding and emotionally draining, there were moments that gave Dollahan the strength and inspiration to keep going, like seeing patients who had been sick for weeks finally get their breathing tubes out. An experience she had with one family stands out as her favorite.

“We had a patient who had already been there for weeks when l started working in the COVID ICU, and we couldn't tell if he was aware of what was going on or not,” she explained. “His daughter would call in every single morning, and we would use an iPad to allow her to talk to him, pray with him and read scripture with him. It provided a level of emotional support for her that she really needed.”

The video calls also made a physical difference. “His heart rate would slow down a little bit, his blood pressure would go back to normal, and we wouldn't have to give him any medicine to help stabilize him,” she said.

The iPad Dollahan used is one of 40 that were donated to MUSC Health with one purpose: to connect patients with their families during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since March, hospital visits have been restricted for both COVID and non-COVID patients. The donated iPads let families visit with their loved ones safely through live video chats. They can also provide comfort to sedated patients. Dollahan said nurses often asked about a patient’s favorite music or movie so they could play it on an iPad next to their bed. And when families couldn’t be with a loved one in their final moments, iPads helped them say goodbye.

iPad Donors and MUSC Health officials 
First Reliance Bank donated 26 iPads to MUSC Health Florence.

In all, 40 iPads were generously donated by two businesses: First Reliance Bank and Gravyty, a vendor used by advancement services at MUSC. Gravyty uses artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to help nonprofit organizations like the MUSC Foundation reach their fundraising goals.

Gravyty CEO and co-founder Adam Martel called the decision to donate $8,000 for iPads a “no brainer.”

“There's no better cause, particularly in the environment that we're in, than helping hospitals and medical research centers support patients who are suffering with COVID-19,” said Martel. “We just wanted to give back in a small way and support the work that you're doing, because it's some of the most important work in the world. We're proud to be part of it.”

First Reliance Bank donated 26 iPads to the MUSC Health Florence Division.

“We saw an opportunity to fulfill the gap in communication between patients and their families by providing iPads … for emotional and social support,” said Rick Saunders, president and CEO of First Reliance Bank. “As a community bank, we are chartered to serve the communities that we operate in with quality banking service and philanthropical support from the profits we receive. First Reliance Bank takes that charge seriously and leads by example.”

Dollahan is grateful to First Reliance Bank and Gravyty for recognizing the needs of MUSC Health patients and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic. “We are a state facility and a lot of our patients don't come from a place where they would be able to afford to own devices like that,” Dollahan explained. “The money they donated was a very selfless act, and one that really helped connect people in a way that we wouldn't have been able to, if we hadn't had those devices.”


About the Author

Melissa Varner

Keywords: Thank You Notes, COVID-19