Seated left to right: John Augustine, Carlos Garcia (MMC) and Lisa Khuri (MMC)
Standing left to right: Jamie Augustine, Cara Augustine, Rhonda Augustine, Sherry Morrison (MMC), Charlene Trimeloni (MMC), Ian Brown (MMC) and Fran Watson (MMC).
“As soon as I realized I was on life support with a ventilator that prevented me from talking, I started trying to write in the air. At first, everyone in the room thought I was just wildly flailing my arms, trying to deal with the panic.”
John Augustine, a 38-year-old husband, father of two young daughters, and director of the Greater Johnstown Career and Technology Center, had been placed in a heavily sedated state for seven days to allow his body to fight a virus that attacked his heart. “I’ll never forget waking up and not being able to be understood,” John says. “The frustration of not being able to communicate made everything worse.”
Nurses at Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center had one tool: a paper with large capital letters spaced widely and in alphabetic order. “I was supposed to point from letter to letter to spell a word,” John recalls. “I thought, ‘This isn’t easy. It’s not even set up like a keyboard! The look in my wife’s eyes told me she could not understand anything I was trying to communicate, and I wanted to scream ‘you’re not listening to me!’ to everyone who entered that hospital room.”
Hours later: a breakthrough. “Cara?” Rhonda Augustine said, looking helplessly at John. A few more signals and guesses and his wife suddenly got the message. He wanted to use his daughter Cara’s iPod to communicate. Two hours later, Rhonda was back at the hospital with the technology that helped John’s recovery. Two days later, he was able to say to his wife, “We have to pay this forward. I’m alive for a reason.”
The Augustine's created iPACT: The Interactive Patient Assistive Communication Technology Fund, administered through the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies: www.ipactfund.org. “There has to be some type of healing taking place when a patient can communicate thoughts, feelings and needs,” he says.
Carlos Garcia, Conemaugh Memorial Speech Therapist, agrees, “Research shows that difficulty communicating in the ICU can have a detrimental impact on the physical and psychological well-being of patients as well as the quality of their care. The iPACT Fund can help patients; that’s the bottom line. I can also see benefits for stroke, brain-injured patients and others, and we appreciate what the Augustines have done to increase awareness for this and to help make the technology available.”
Conemaugh Health Foundation has received nearly $4,000 from the iPACT Fund for the purchase of two iPads and other accessories that were implemented for patient use at Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center’s ICU in January.
"We are so thankful for this donation," says Fran Watson, Nurse Manager of the ICU. The iPads were implemented in the ICU on January 13, 2014.
To continue the iPACT initiative, Augustine is hosting a Valentine's dinner and dance fundraiser on February 15 at 6:00 p.m. at the Greater Johnstown Career and Technology Center. The event will include dancing, food and fun for all ages. Silent auction items and basket raffles will be held every half hour. A family of four is suggested donation of $50 and individuals are $15. Children under 5 are free. For tickets, visit www.eventbrite.com and search "ipactfund". Tickets also available at the door. Take-outs will be available 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. For more information, please call (814) 381-66662 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Conemaugh Health Foundation
The Conemaugh Health Foundation (CHF) is a nonprofit, qualified charitable organization responsible for raising funds to support the programs and services of the Conemaugh Health System and its members. Individuals and businesses, who embrace the mission of the Conemaugh Health Foundation, respond to fulfill unmet community needs especially among at-risk children, the elderly and underserved.
For More Information, Please Contact:
Amy Bradley, Director of Public Affairs
Phone: (814) 534-3121