Nonprofit provides tablets to COVID-19 patients so they can say goodbye to loved ones

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Hours after Gov. Brian Kemp extended the statewide shelter-in-place order through the end of April, Georgia’s confirmed coronavirus cases crossed the 10,000 mark, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health.

The medical director of palliative care at Emory University Healthcare is part of the COVID Tech Connect team

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to claim the lives of Georgians and people around the country, a nonprofit has stepped in to provide some help for people dying due to COVID-19.

Sara Rodell, the founder and CEO of customer gifting platform Loop & Tie, founded the nonprofit Covid Tech Connect. It is dedicated to getting tablets into hospitals around the U.S. amid the pandemic.

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Rodell, an entrepreneur, got a text from a friend seeking tablets to give to the New York Nurses Union because patients dying due to COVID-19 were unable to say goodbye to family and friends. Crowding at hospitals and the risk of others contracting the disease caused by the coronavirus has led hospitals around the country to restrict visitors.

According to CNN, Rodell's friend heard about the issue from a nurse.

“The nurse was seeing patients pass away without getting the chance to say goodbye to their loved ones,” Rodell said. “I feel like everything is making you cry these days, but that was just very emotional.”

Rodell recruited a professional network of women with experience in communication, technology, logistics and grassroots organization, according to the nonprofit's website.

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Among its team members is Dr. Joanne Gould Kuntz, the medical director of palliative care at Emory University Healthcare.

“One of the most important questions we ask is, ‘If time were short, what would be most important to you? How would you want to spend it?’” CNN reported Kuntz wrote in a personal essay. “The answer we hear time and again is this: 'I want to spend it with my family, my children, my grandchildren.’”

Kuntz had been treating Margie Ulman, an 89-year-old COVID-19 patient who had been admitted to the ICU. Ulman’s family was unable to visit her, CNN reported, so Kuntz suggested they set up a Zoom conference call. After Kuntz set up the equipment, Ulman's children, grandchildren and great grandchildren were able to visit with her virtually.

Ulman died after spending three days in the hospital. Her son-in-law, Harvey Rickles, was thankful fort the Zoom call.

“We felt that it provided a lot of relief. It gave us an opportunity to see her and have contact with her and share our thoughts with her,” Rickles told CNN. “It was cathartic.”

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Hoping to provide more cathartic moments for families at this time, Covid Tech Connect has partnered with the Giving Back Fund, which is the nonprofit's 501(c)(3) fiscal sponsor. The two organizations have established a GoFundMe to collect funds to purchase tablets and send them to hospitals for patients. More than 40 hospitals have requested the devices.

"This one really spoke to me and the group that we're coordinating with and so many of the people who have been donating because these goodbye conversations are so important for — not only the person that is passing away — but their friends and their family and also the healthcare providers," Rodell told MSNBC.

She called the conversations “a moment of healing.”