Keeping patients connected

Aaron Hou
Aaron Hou knows how important it is to stay in touch. He comes from a close-knit family and has a large group of friends he’s known since high school.

So at the start of the pandemic, when the McMaster biochemistry major heard news reports of restrictions on hospital visiting policies, he knew he had to help patients stay safely connected in some way.

“I read many stories about people who were in critical care and passing away without even being able to say their last goodbyes. That was really the driving force of our fundraising effort,” he says.

That’s when Aaron and his friends hatched a plan to provide Toronto hospitals with iPads, so families could video call their loved ones. Sunnybrook, he says, was high on his list because it was where his grandmother received care, and he remembered she had a positive experience. “It was definitely one of the first hospitals I reached out to try and give back to,” he says.

Within a matter of weeks, Aaron and his friends launched iPads for Patients. They created a GoFundMe page to solicit donations, using social media to promote the cause and connecting with telecommunications companies to get deals on refurbished iPads.

The initiative raised enough to donate more than 40 iPads to hospitals across the city.

It was so rewarding dropping off the iPads, knowing that they would go to people who would use them right away,” says Aaron.
Aaron is also a McMaster University student who is working as a research assistant at Sunnybrook.

Not long after, Aaron’s grandfather was admitted to a hospital (for reasons unrelated to COVID) and he was relieved his family was still able to stay connected through one of those very iPads.

At the same time, Aaron has been helping advance research into COVID-19 through his work as a research assistant in Dr. Samira Mubareka’s lab at Sunnybrook. Dr. Mubareka was part of a team that collaborated to isolate the virus that causes COVID-19. And this fall, Aaron began the first placement for his nursing program at Sunnybrook’s Veterans Centre.

Aaron’s optimism and enthusiasm shine through in both his charitable and professional endeavours. “If there’s an opportunity to help other people,” he says, “I'll more than likely grab it and try my best at it.”