Talking across the miles.
The first launch of the Video Visit program took place in November between two young boys in the Hospital of Pisa and their families in a computer center in Pristina, Kosovo. On January 8, WiRED launched its second installment of the Video Visit program. This video link occurred between Tirana, Albania and Pisa, Italy. Three children, undergoing medical treatment in Italy, saw and heard their families in Tirana for the fist time in nearly 12 months.
The video connection lasted nearly four hours and gave the families an opportunity to exchange information and to see each other across the Adriatic Sea.
One family drove more than six hours to Tirana (leaving home at 3 a.m.) to be in position for the teleconference. The connection was disrupted several times, once when the power went out in Tirana and again when the phone connections there were disrupted. Utility outages are common in the region. A WiRED technician in Tirana and a physician in Pisa quickly reestablished the connection and the Video Visit continued. More than a dozen family members took turns communicating with the boys.
WiRED accelerated its plan to roll out Video Visit to Albania at the urgent request of Dr. Mauro Lazzeri, Chief of Staff at the Pisa hospital. Lazerri noted that he observed a remarkable boost in the spirits of the children from Kosovo after their first communication with home. He urged WiRED to hasten its rollout of the program to Albania, the home of many children undergoing treatment in Italy.
Advanced medical therapies are not currently available in Albania, an impoverished country on the edge of the Adriatic Sea. WiRED quickly raised the funds and sent the equipment and a technician to organize the videoconference. The tech also trained people in the Tirana hospital to operate the Video Visit program themselves. Officials at the hospital plan to establish weekly connections for the families.
The Italian government, through a program run by Dr. Lazzeri, pays for treatment of seriously ill children in many third-world countries. WiRED is outfitting locations in each of the developing countries that send children to Lazzeri's hospital.
In addition to using the equipment for family communications, physicians will use the video facilities to communicate with each other. They currently use e-mail, but the video connection will enable them to engage in real-time communication and discussion of the children's conditions and treatments.
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