Help us communicate with our eyeballs!
STAFF at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Kettering General Hospital have launched an appeal to buy new technology that allows severely impaired patients to type, text and email just by using movements of their eyes.
Some ICU patients can feel ‘imprisoned’ in their own bodies if they have suffered an illness or injury that leaves them unable to speak, or even write, to communicate with their family and hospital staff.
Staff in Kettering’s ICU discovered that there is an assistive communication device – similar to one used by scientist Stephen Hawking – which can enable patients to communicate using their eyes as a virtual computer mouse to type messages.
The devices – called Tobi Eyegaze from Smartbox Assistive Technologies Ltd – cost £3,000-£5,000 each and look like a computer tablet, but are not available as standard NHS equipment.
Intensive Voices raise funds
SENIOR ICU Sister Caroline Simcoe and her colleagues launched a £20,000 public appeal called ‘Intensive Voices’ to raise money for the devices via a series of public events including an entertainment evening, quiz night and charity ball.
Senior ICU Sister Caroline Simcoe said: “If we can raise money and buy this technology it will provide us with a great opportunity to improve our patients’ experience. It will provide them with a voice – their injury or illness may have robbed them of that.
“It’s hard for most people to imagine how distressing it would be to be unable to express even the simplest thoughts and emotions without being able to speak or write something down. On ICU, we see that every day. For example, patients who have had tracheostomies, who are ventilated, or have neurological or spinal injuries that can prohibit speech and communication.
“If we had this new technology it would create a whole new world of communication to help them through a very difficult time. It would allow them to tell jokes, laugh, text, email, facebook, skype and connect with the internet – all from their hospital bed – and feelings of isolation could be very much alleviated.”
Sepsis patient backs appeal
FATHER-of-two David Carson (64), from Corby, spent more than a month on KGH’s ICU after suffering septic shock and multi-organ failure in April 2013.
As a result he lost both legs, six fingertips and his sense of touch. He also had a tracheostomy and couldn’t speak – although he has since recovered his voice.
Mr Carson, who is an active supporter of the Sepsis Trust and promotes awareness of the condition, said: “This is a must-have piece of equipment.
“In my own experience, coming round after being in a coma and finding that you can’t move and are unable to speak is frightening. I was trapped inside a body that I didn’t recognise and found it so difficult to tell those around me how I was feeling. I’m sure this device will make a huge difference to patients, staff and family.
“The hospital has had a chance to see the device in action when it was sent here on a trial and I was given an opportunity to use it. It’s fantastic! You can actually type, or select icons, on a tablet screen using just your eyeballs by focusing your gaze on something.
“This could be an absolute lifeline for patients who have conditions that would otherwise leave them almost entirely unable to communicate.
“One of the key things I noticed was just how quickly and easily you could ask for help using the device. Just one glance and a computerised voice can tell staff what you want. It’s amazing.”
Cash starts to come in
THE ICU team have teamed up with the KGH Charity Fund and a number of local organisations to develop the fundraising campaign.
The first fundraising event was a night of song and dance called Artistic Expression at the Grampian Club in Corby last month, which raised an amazing £4,388.
Included in the event was a choir comprised of ICU staff, former patients and relatives and friends. The performance was followed by a disco by Corby Radio’s Martin Brown. The campaign is being supported by members of Corby Amateur Theatrical Society (CATS), Kettering and District Theatrical Society (THEATS) and Corby’s MASH School of Dancing.
Members of the hospital choir will be appearing on Friday June 10 at Latimer Arts College’s Masque Theatre in Castle Way, Barton Seagrave, from 7.30pm (£9 a ticket, book here: masquekettering.co.uk). The event includes Voices Aloud and Seagrave Singers raising funds for the appeal, and featuring the hospital group in the finale – closing in style with all three groups singing out to give patients a voice.
Meanwhile, on Thursday May 26 at 1pm, the choir is to sing in the Foundation Wing Atrium at KGH, a free event calling for donations as the choir performs. And you can to text donations – ICUDO8 then £1, £2, £3, £4, £5 or £10 to 70070.
Some doctors and nurses are also taking part in the Harborough ‘Carnival of Running’ 10km run on Saturday June 11 for the appeal. Sponsor them here: virginmoneygiving.com/team/intensivecare
Pictured – GIVING APPEAL A VOICE: Right, Senior ICU Sister Caroline Simcoe shows Corby resident David Carson the Tobi Eyegaze machine – loaned for demonstration purposes to the hospital. Above, the Intensive Voices hospital choir performed in Corby last month and more appearances are planned.