Teen launches ‘COVID Connectors’ to help patients in RI hospitals talk to loved ones

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — With no visitors being allowed at hospitals and long-term care facilities in Rhode Island due to the COVID-19 outbreak, some patients don’t have a way to talk to their families.

A local teenager is hoping to change that by partnering with the Rhode Island Medical Society.

Kaya Suner, 19, told Eyewitness News he originally wanted to make masks but had little sewing skills. His parents, who are both emergency room doctors, then suggested there was something else he could do to help patients: connect them with their loved ones.

“My idea is kind of taking form and it’s helping people, it’s making a difference,” Suner said.

COVID Connectors allows people to donate gently used iPads or iPhones to patients who don’t have their own devices.

“They might not have the ability to FaceTime with their own phone, or they may not have a phone,” Suner said.

Suner’s parents know how much harder this can be for patients without support, with the sad reality that one of these devices may be for the most unfortunate situations.

“The iPads are mostly for those who are pretty severely ill, to kind of say goodbye,” Suner added.

The website details how you can wipe your old devices of personal information before you send it to the Rhode Island Medical Society. Then, Suner says volunteers he calls “COVID Communication Champions” take over to make sure the devices are clean internally and externally and getting to the right patient, as well as getting cleaned in between patients.

According to the Rhode Island Medical Society, after wiping personal information, donors are asked to disinfect their devices and place them in a plastic bag.

Suner says the program has been up and running less than a week but has already netted about 40 devices. He hopes to expand the program to other New England hospitals.

“Honestly, anything I can do to help these patients during this time…I want to do it,” he said.

Devices can be dropped off at the Rhode Island Medical Society’s office on Promenade Street in Providence from 8:40 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. After hours, there is a bin located directly across from the entrance.

Device pick-ups can also be arranged on the organization’s website or by calling (401) 331-1401.

Click here to donate a device »

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