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Family Sees Stroke Survivor's First Unassisted Steps Thanks to Telehealth Technology


There was not a dry eye in the hospital hallway -- or on the computer -- as Tom Delaronde took his first unassisted steps after surviving a stroke. Though unconventional, the virtual visit allowed Mr. Delaronde to share the recovery milestone with loved ones staying home to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.

Just weeks ago, Mr. Delaronde’s family cheered him on in person at the University of Vermont Health Network - Elizabethtown Community Hospital. Since his stroke last December, Mr. Delaronde’s family has traveled about 100 miles each day to visit him. The coronavirus threatened to change that.

“Mr. Delaronde and his family have been incredibly dedicated to his recovery,” said Dr. Michael Theeman, a physical therapist at Elizabethtown Community Hospital. According to Dr. Theeman, the care and support of family caregivers is critical to the recovery of stroke survivors. Loved ones often partner with providers to plan for the delivery of care in the hospital and to ensure a safe transition home after discharge. So, when visitation was temporarily suspended, the care team at Elizabethtown Community Hospital found a way for the family to stay in touch.

“We are so fortunate to be able to leverage technology to keep our providers and patients, and our patients and their families, connected during this crisis,” said Kim Coolidge, director of IT operations at the hospital, who led the effort to launch provider-patient and patient-family videoconferencing. “We are doing everything we can to maintain the connections that are critical to the health and wellbeing of our patients.”

Many patients have taken advantage of the hospital's secure telehealth platform to connect with their family during the coronavirus outbreak, and others have relied on video and phone calls. Some have even greeted patients by waving through the window. “These visits are safe and help keep the patients' spirits up,” said Ms. Coolidge.

“There is a beautiful lesson in Mr. Delaronde’s story,” said Dr. Theeman. “With the right support system, we can move through great challenges. During this time of uncertainty and change, staying connected is more important than ever.”

Learn more about rehabilation therapy and our inpatient unit.