Hospitals and care facilities are relying on technology more than ever before to connect families during the coronavirus pandemic


A grieving man is helping others connect with their ailing family members during the coronavirus pandemic.

New Jersey resident John Lynch, like many other families around the country, couldn't join his dying father in the facility where he was being cared for because of precautions in place to slow the spread of coronavirus. Lynch had no choice but to heartbreakingly say goodbye to his 92-year-old father over a FaceTime video call on April 13, he explained in a description on his GoFundMe page.

Social distancing restrictions around the country have greatly affected hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living facilities, which often care for older patients who are at increased risk of having severe symptoms from the disease.

The experience of saying goodbye to his father over FaceTime solidified Lynch's belief that video technology is more vital than ever for families during the pandemic — and that's one of the reasons why he's on a mission to provide facilities with video devices through his initiative, Operation Connection: The iPad Project.

John Lynch - Lunch with Lynch Operation Connection - The iPad Project
Credit: GoFundMe

"In an effort to protect our front-line medical staff and their patients, many medical centers are quarantining their building," Lynch explained on the donation page. "While this is a necessary step to stop the spread of the virus, the reality of it all is pretty simple, people are suffering and dying alone."

John Lynch - Lunch with Lynch Operation Connection - The iPad Project
John Lynch with his father, Hugh
| Credit: GoFundMe

"It’s my wish that I can afford the same opportunity for other families to FaceTime their loved one at their time of need," Lynch said.

"My dad died from natural causes of old age and his transition from earth into heaven was somewhat expected," he added. "My heart breaks heart thinking the thousands of families who have suddenly lost a family member or friend due to [coronavirus]."

One of the first donations Lynch made was to the Cape Regional Medical Center in New Jersey after he found out nurses were using their personal devices to keep quarantined patients connected with their friends and family.

Lynch — who runs the Lunch with Lynch Foundation to support youth education — has since supplied dozens of iPads to hospitals and senior care centers around New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and South Carolina.

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Lynch is now hoping to acquire 100 iPads to send to other hospitals and care centers and has since raised just over $100 toward his $5,000 goal.

"We have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of loved ones quarantine as they fight the COVID-19 virus and other illnesses!" Lynch wrote on the donation page. "Providing our hospitals and senior care centers with iPads gives families an opportunity to speak with one another."

Since the coronavirus outbreak forced stay-at-home orders around the country in mid-March, there have been many stories of families having to say goodbye to dying relatives over video chat— a New York woman played her wedding song over FaceTime during her husband's final moments, and a Washington woman said goodbye to her mother over video chat as the 75-year-old succumbed to the deadly disease.

According to a New York Times database, the United States has seen more than 1.4 million cases and 84,938 deaths attributed to coronavirus as of Thursday afternoon.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.