DUBLIN -- When Newell NeSmith fought the Nazis in World War II, postcards were the only way he had to communicate with his family back home.
NeSmith, 94, was an Army infantryman before having a long career as an attorney in Cochran.
Today he lives at the Carl Vinson VA Medical Center, but communication has come quite a long way in 70 years. Thanks to a program that may be a first among VA hospitals nationwide, NeSmith uses an iPad to talk face-to-face with his son in Atlanta.
Al NeSmith visits his dad in person weekly, but he said the iPad offers a way to keep in touch more often.
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“It’s a lot better than talking on the phone,” Al NeSmith said prior to their electronic visit Thursday. “About the only difference from being there is that I can’t hold his hand.”
During their visit, social worker Greg Senters held the iPad so the two could see each other.
“How are you feeling today?” Al NeSmith asked his dad.
“I feel good,” said NeSmith, who was Cochran’s city attorney for many years.
Then Al asked his dad what he had for breakfast.
“I can’t identify this fancy stuff,” he replied.
They went on to talk about the upcoming college football season and the last time they played golf together, among other things.
The hospital uses two donated iPads. One came from the National Society Colonial Dames XVII Century, and the other came from the hospital’s volunteer organization. Senters said he would like to have four more, one for each social worker at the hospital. The iPads also are used for music therapy.
He has done a fair amount of research into the use of iPads in VA hospitals and said he hasn’t found another hospital that uses iPads to connect patients with families. Of course, all patients with their own iPad or other mobile device can use the hospital’s public wireless network to connect with family members using programs such as Skype and Facetime.
In the month since the iPads have been used, Senter said, the technology is much appreciated by those whose family is even farther away than NeSmith’s. The program is having a positive impact on both ends for those who use it, Senters said.
“I can tell a difference not only with the patient but with the family,” he said. “We are shrinking the world here, and where you can’t travel or hop on a plane, you get to see Dad. It’s very reassuring.”
One veteran’s mother lives in the Virgin Islands, and she can only visit in person about once a year. Now she can talk to him via the iPad whenever she likes.
It can also be for patients with local family. One veteran with a large number of grandchildren used it to visit with them as a group because they couldn’t all go to the hospital and see him.
To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.
Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled the name of VA social worker Greg Senters.