(WSVN) - One of the most difficult things about being in the hospital with the coronavirus is that you can’t have family at your side, but as 7’s Brian Entin tells us, one family is doing their part to make sure that people can stay “Connected During COVID.”

It has been weeks since Paul Laroche has been able to communicate with his brother Vladimir.

Paul Laroche: “At the time, he couldn’t even talk because his lungs were so compromised.”

Vladimir is a doctor in Palm Beach County. He came down with COVID-19 in March, and for the past two months has been fighting for his life at Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center. For his family, one of the hardest things is not being able to see him.

Paul Laroche: “Once they go into the hospital, that’s almost like they go into a vortex, and that’s it.”

When patients are very ill, it’s difficult for them to speak over the phone. That’s how Paul got the idea to buy an iPad and donate it to the hospital, so he could keep in better touch with his brother.

Paul Laroche, donating iPads: “It was basically like being with him, like in the room with him, and I got to see the ICU. The nurse gave me a tour, showed me the machines, and then, everything that I was connected to by name only became real because I was able to see the ventilator. It was conceptual. Everything came to life.”

It made such a difference that the Laroche family decided to help others connect with their loved ones during the COVID crisis. They are now collecting new and used iPads for donation to South Florida hospitals.

Fred Charlot, donating iPads: “Right now, we have six ready to go.”

Fred Charlot is Paul’s brother-in-law. He and his wife prepare the iPads from their home in Texas.

Fred Charlot: “If they’re donated, what we do is we make sure that we wipe them, make sure that there’s no residual information from the first owner, and then, we begin by building up the things that someone would need, for example, video conferencing, FaceTime.”

They then ship the iPads to hospitals in South Florida. Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center received three last week.

Teresa Urquhart, CEO, Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center: “It really means a lot to our families, and it means a lot to our caregivers because they’re working night and day, doing all they can to be there for them, not only as a caregiver, but also for support.”

With the help of the nurses, families now schedule virtual visits.

Teresa Urquhart: “They take it into the room, and they’ll hold it for the patient, and if the patient wants privacy, obviously we would respect that, and we can step out while they have their conversation.”

Being able to see and speak with loved ones is an important part of a patient’s recovery, especially in isolation.

Fred Charlot: “It’s unacceptable that you have someone in the hospital with hundreds of loved ones and feeling extremely lonely going through this difficult process by themselves. Let’s use the technology that we have.”

The Laroche family is donating the iPads through their nonprofit organization, called Heal As One, which pairs plasma donors with COVID patients. Now, they hope that connecting families through the iPads will help the healing process, as well.

If you’d like to know more about Heal As One, or if you’d like to donate an iPad to the organization, click here.

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