Today was EAT-day.
No food. But great technology.
Well, we started with some good, basic, hands-on engineering.
There is a clinic for ‘electronic assistive technology’ (EAT) in the NRH for which Pádraig had an appointment today. The idea was that the specialists would explore in which way technology could help Pádraig communicate better and take more control over his environment.
Basically, if you can press a switch to answer yes/no questions, to indicate that you recognise and understand words, or to spell – then you can ‘tell’ the radio that you want to listen to Raidió na Gaeltachta or Raidió Rí Rá or, even Radio Two; or you could switch the lights off; or play your favourite songs from a playlist; or…
Today was the first step and contact in getting there. Pádraig got the switch mounted on his wheelchair so that we won’t have to hold this in our hands any longer. And it’ll be always in the same place.
He tried that out: long beeps, short beeps, really loooooong beeps. (You need to know that the pitch of this bleep is similar to what you would hear if you had a tinnitus; and that he was making deliberate use of the switch most of the afternoon on the ward.)
A technology firm, Tobii Dynavox, will visit the NRH later in the month and Pádraig got a special appointment with them. Can’t wait.
In the meantime, Pádraig is making huge progress not just using his ‘left foot’, but also his hand; with a much smaller and more complex switch. It’s a recordable switch: you press it once, it ‘says’ what was recorded, and you have to release it before you can press it again. In this short 1-minute video, I ask Pádraig to press the switch (it says ‘ja’ when he presses it) when he hears a certain number. (Sorry, it’s all in German:)
Pádraig is getting loads of visitors which is absolutely brilliant! Two last night, one in the morning and another two tonight. He must be absolutely thrilled to see how much people care about him!
The visitor this morning is also a nurse who will be helping us with An Saol. There is really quite a bit of momentum building up with many people not ‘just’ saying how appalled they are with the lack of timely, proper and sufficient help and services, but who are also prepared to do something about it. (I need to say here that what staff are doing for and with Pádraig in the NRH, given the resources at their disposal, is really good – but access to the NRH is, of course, very much limited as we know. So much more needs to happen.)
Other friends have been volunteering to start working on a bit of a PR campaign in Ireland and abroad to spread the word that An Saol’s first volunteer meeting is about to happen, that An Saol will be hiring therapists, and that there are two fundraising cycles being planned for next year in the US.
It has been a good day today. And I’ve got this feeling that there will be many more good days to come. (Never thought I would say this ever again.)