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Fall 2011

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‘9000 Needles’ Around Globe

Family Utilizes Skype While Survivor Seeks Care in China

By Lisa Pogue

Patients are turning to Skype—an application for Internet video calling—to stay in touch and maintain a mobile support system throughout the various stages of stroke recovery.

Filmmaker Doug Dearth directed the powerful 2011 documentary  “9000 Needles” about his brother, Devin Dearth’s stroke rehabilitation in Tianjin, China, and the distances families will go to help heal loved ones.

A brain stem bleed left 40-year-old Devin Dearth paralyzed on his right side. The champion bodybuilder, successful businessman and father of three turned to a Chinese hospital that integrated Western and Eastern medicine to treat stroke patients.

Here, Doug Dearth shares what it was like to use Skype to reach out to family members while his youngest brother powered through rehab.

Q: How did Skype help you tell your brother’s story?

A: Skype became a wonderful tool for us early on. Our family was all able to communicate face-to-face (virtually) from Kentucky to Los Angeles to Ohio.

We also used Skype with the doctors in Tianjin in order to discuss Devin’s case—a pivotal step in easing our concerns and fears surrounding Devin traveling all the way to China in his condition.

Q: Did Skype play a role in helping family and friends understand Devin’s recovery?

A: Absolutely! Using Skype gave Devin a chance to speak with his family every day. He stayed involved in his three children’s lives and our family watched his progress in real-time.

Q: Did using Skype to communicate inspire hope or motivation in your brother?

A: It definitely inspired motivation, because Devin really didn’t want to let his family down. For example, if they happened to be watching via Skype while he was exercising or trying to walk, he would certainly try extra hard to show them that he was improving.

Several times, a Skype call with Devin was projected live on a large screen at his local church in Kentucky. The church community was an integral part of raising money for Devin’s journey and provided much-needed support to Devin’s family while he was gone.

Q: How did it help Devin stay connected as a father and husband?

A: Devin has three children: a son, Zachary (who was 19 at the time), and two daughters, Kaley and Sarah (15 and 9, respectively). Each of them handled their own experience with their dad differently. At a time when normally they would be away from their injured father, they were able to see him daily, meet the folks who were taking care of him and continue to share their lives with him.

Lisa Pogue is a freelance writer based in Breckenridge, Colo. She learned a lot about the power of family, community and determination while researching Devin Dearth’s touching journey.

What is Skype?

Everyone from grandparents to grade-school children, and college students abroad to Oprah Winfrey are using this online phone and video conferencing platform. You can have face-to-face video conversations over the Internet or call a friend from your computer. The application also allows group calls bringing people in from multiple states or countries on one video or phone call. Find out more by visiting skype.com.

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National Stroke Association’s mission is to reduce the incidence and impact of stroke by developing compelling education and programs focused on prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and support for all impacted by stroke.

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