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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — As visitor restrictions continue at hospitals and long-term care facilities, it takes creativity to connect with loved ones.

Last month, WCCO reported on a group trying to bridge the gap by donating tablets to hospitals so patients could video call their families.

Just weeks later, hundreds now have the power to do just that.

For Robert Kronebusch, life at the Lake Winona Manor senior home is starting to get monotonous without visitors.

“My daughter used to come down. She lives in Inver Grove Heights. I have a brother and sister that live here in Winona, and they used to come and visit me at least once a week. Now they can’t come either,” Kronebusch said.

He says he tries to keep busy despite the loneliness.

“Working on puzzles. Now when it’s nice, I go outside and sit in the sun. Outside of that, not much else.”

That was the case, until last week.

“It’s almost like you’re sitting here talking to somebody,” he said.

WCCO spoke to Kronebusch on a new tablet — one of 226 donated to 33 different hospitals and long-term care facilities across Minnesota by the Geller Foundation for Patient Safety. Linda Geller Axelrod is the foundation’s founder.

“We just never thought there was this kind of a need. They now have a way to actually communicate and see someone. It’s a lot different than just talking on the phone,” Geller Axelrod said. “The generosity of people has been incredible.”

Sanford Worthington Medical Center just got 10 of the tablets. Aside from COVID-19 patients, isolated chemo patients and expecting mothers can use them during appointments. Jennifer Weg is the hospital’s executive director.

“We serve a lot of elderly persons, and so they might not have a smartphone. We see it as an important enhancement to their patient care,” Weg said.

Kronebusch is still learning how to use his new portal to the outside world, as we all are learning how to better communicate in the isolated COVID-19 era.

“I talked to my daughter last Saturday on it,” he said. “She could hear me, but I couldn’t hear her.”

The Geller foundation is still looking for donations. Click here to learn how to help.

CONTACT US: Do you have a story about the COVID-19 pandemic to share with us? Please contact us here.

Erin Hassanzadeh

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