BlueJeans Blog

The Power of Connection: How Pennsylvania Hospital ICU’s First COVID-19 Patient Became a Miracle Survivor

Avram Woidislawsky is not your average 80-year-old. “Earlier this year, he was ziplining in Costa Rica,” says his daughter Gal. “Last summer, we went to Mykonos and Dad was partying all night long — longer than the rest of the family put together.”

But when the retired businessman became the first COVID-19 patient admitted to Pennsylvania Hospital on March 22, he was scared. For 81 days, he lived on a ventilator, spending two months of that in a medically induced coma. What’s more, his close-knit family couldn’t visit him in hospital. “In the first couple of months, we were in a dark place,” says Avram’s wife, Rita. “We had no connection. We would wait by the phone day and night, hoping to hear from the doctor, unable to know what was going on with him.”

“The uncertainty was very grave,” agrees Gal. “The world was getting crazier and crazier, and everything was multiplied because in normal times, you can go visit your loved one. You can hug them and hold their hand. But because of the COVID-19 restrictions, that just wasn’t possible.”

A ray of light in a moment of darkness

When the BlueJeans video conferencing app was installed in Pennsylvania Hospital’s ICU, everything changed. Although Avram was too ill to communicate at first, the Woidislawskys could see and speak to him around the clock. They would play Avram’s favourite music through the app, while taking him on virtual tours of his beloved home. Rita and Gal could say hello to his doctors and nurses as they entered Avram’s room, and keep up to date on his progress. “The app meant we could stay connected with the people who were saving my Dad’s life,” says Gal. “It was such a gift.”

The app’s always-on feature meant family members all over the world, including Avram’s beloved grandchildren, could check in anytime. “Sometimes, we would jump on just to see him sleeping — just to know that he was there,” says Gal. “The app gave us hope, and it gave Dad hope.”

Holding on for life

After one of the hardest fights of his life, Avram became communicative once more. But his physical abilities were still limited, and he had no interest in watching TV. For him, the highlight of every day was talking to his family. “The fact that he was able to see us gave him inspiration to want to get better,” says Gal. “It gave him the strength to go through rehab,” agrees her husband, Michael. “We really feel that the app played such a huge part in saving his life.”

On four separate occasions, hospital staff called the Woidislawskys to let them know the end was near and it was time to say goodbye. But in the virtual arms of his family, Avram held on. On May 27, he moved to the Good Shepherd Penn Partners Rehabilitation Center in Philadelphia, where he would learn how to walk and talk once again.

After his first weekend at Good Shepherd, the hospital decided to take BlueJeans away from Avram’s floor. “It was devastating,” says Gal. “We all went into panic mode. Mom wrote to the head of the hospital, saying they couldn’t do this.” Rita says that period was the hardest, recalling that her husband lost three kilograms and went into a deep depression. “When the app was not available, he looked at me and said, ‘just let me go,’” she says. “I said, ‘Are you kidding me? I’m not letting you go now.’ But he told me he couldn’t do this by himself.”

Thankfully, the Woidislawskys prevailed and within three days the BlueJeans app was up and running once again.

A happy homecoming

With the support of his family and the dedicated team at Good Shepherd, Avram soon began to walk again. In late July, he finally returned home. Although his friends and family wheeled him back home, Avram made a point of crossing the threshold on his own two feet.

Today, the Woidislawskys couldn’t be more grateful to the video conferencing tool they credit with saving Avram’s life. “The app brought pure joy into our lives,” says Rita. “When we talk about what we’re grateful for,” agrees Michael, “I say that the BlueJeans app is the single greatest reason why Avram is doing so well. Without it, we would have lost hope.”

To learn more about how other individuals, families and businesses are using BlueJeans to stay connected in uncertain times, visit our Customers page. Or see for yourself, by trying BlueJeans for free today!