Tablet computer helps disabled patient

PRUH critical care patient, Stewart, can control the tablet computer without the use of his hands

Stewart Samme controls the tablet computer without the use of his hands

Stewart Samme, 46, from Shirley, has been a patient in the intensive Care Unit at the Princess Royal University Hospital for four months as part of his journey to recovery from a respiratory infection unrelated to COVID-19. Following a spinal cord injury nearly 20 years ago, Stewart was left with permanent disability. Over time, Stewart slowly lost movement in his hands and arms until he was unable to use them.

Being cared for in hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic has meant that visiting is limited, and the days had felt even longer for Stewart due to his mobility: “Without the use of my hands, things like reading and watching television were not possible unless assisted,” he explains.

This was until one of the nurses looking after him completely changed that. Laura Eldridge, Senior Sister in Critical Care at the PRUH found the perfect solution in the form of a tablet computer that Stewart can control using his head and chin.

“I can’t thank Laura enough. Before COVID-19, my brother visited me quite often and so did my carers. Obviously that has all changed, but with the tablet I can catch up with family and friends via video and even see my dog who I have also been missing since being here.”

Laura arranged for TV programmes bespoke to Stewart’s preferences to be available on the tablet. “I am watching Only Fools and Horses, Live at the Apollo and some football at the moment. I am also emailing friends and family, listening to music and surfing the web. To be able to control the tablet myself is unbelievable and time goes by quickly. It has given me back a great deal of independence.”

Laura said: “It has been wonderful to see how much this has changed Stewart’s experience for the better. Being able to help in this way is very special. It is also a reminder of the care we are still continuing to provide for patients with other health needs during this challenging time and has given a real boost to staff.”

The tablet computer was provided on loan by the charity SpecialEffect. The charity supports disabled and vulnerable people through specialising in accessible technology.

Gillian Taylor, Senior Occupational Therapist from SpecialEffect, said: “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 some 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 had arrived, we had a Zoom training session with Laura and then she did a fantastic job at setting the equipment up for Stewart. We’re absolutely delighted that it’s working so well for him.“

For more information on how the PRUH is continuing to care for patients during the COVID-19 outbreak, visit https://pruh.kch.nhs.uk/.