R.I. teen creates non-profit org. to provide smart tech to patients isolated from loved ones

In this Monday, May 4, 2020, photo, Kaya Suner holds up an iPhone and an iPad as he poses for a portrait in Northfield, N.H. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

OAN Newsroom
UPDATED 4:45 PM PT — Friday, May 8, 2020

A Rhode Island teen is working to bring isolated coronavirus patients together with their friends and families, while keeping a safe distance.

“There’s a ban on visitation in the hospitals right now,” he explained. “Patients, you know, don’t have the abilities to connect with their loved ones, so that’s kind of where we step in.”

19-year-old Kaya Suner began his mission to provide technology to hospital patients under quarantine with a Facebook idea. His non-profit allows individuals to donate their “gently used” smart phones or tablets with functioning cameras.

As more people stepped up to contribute, the idea evolved into a non-profit organization called COVID Connectors. The group quickly met its goal of collecting 650 devices for Rhode Island hospitals.

“So I just posted on Facebook and said, ‘Hey, if anybody has any devices, let me know and I can work up my parents to get them into hospitals,’” stated Suner. “The response was pretty overwhelming just on Facebook alone.”

COVID-19 patients are reportedly using the devices to keep in touch with family and loved ones, who have joined in to celebrate birthdays or meet newborns for the very first time.

In one case, Suner said the technology helped a patient receive their last rites before succumbing to the virus.

“One family member said that they had someone in the hospital who wanted their last rites read,” he said. “We were able to get an iPad to them and they had their last rites read to them.”

As it stands, COVID Connectors operates throughout Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Suner is planning to bring the group’s services to New York in the coming weeks.

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