Technology's Silver Lining: A Caregiver's Perspective (Part 1)

Published: 09/01/2018 20:45

We love hearing that our products make life better for someone—potentially for a whole circle of people, as this two-part blog post shows. Caregiver Jeela Tamrakar wrote it to honor Anthony, her patient who has ALS and uses Tobii Dynavox devices for access and communication. She wants others to consider the good quality of life they, too, can enjoy through technology. 

By Jeela Tamrakar

I met Tony in early 2015 when he was still able to talk, eat, drink, use a computer with a mouse and drive his wheelchair. After some emotional conversation I saw a fighter in him. “I will give Stephen Hawking a run for his money,” he said.

Tony was born in England and currently lives in Argyle, Texas with his wife Cathy and their three children. He was diagnosed with ALS in August 2013.

ALS is a motor neuron disease that robs people of their physical abilities. I believe in looking at the silver linings, though, like the fact that most people with ALS retain the ability to move their eyes. This is where Tobii Dynavox comes in. Their eye gaze technology allows the user to control a computer, to communicate and do much more--with just their eyes! It opens almost limitless possibilities to live an active life in today’s digital world. 

When Tony started losing his ability to speak because of the disease, he knew this technology would allow him to communicate and got a Tobii Dynavox I-12. The sooner you learn and embrace this technology, the better you can prepare yourself for a time when you depend completely on your eyes to communicate. Then, as he lost the ability to control a computer using his hands, we went through many laptops until we found one with all the specifications he needed. Tony now uses Communicator 5 software (the voice with a British accent is his preference, of course) on a Windows tablet. For computer access, he uses Classic Tobii Dynavox Gaze Interaction software with the PCEye Mini and PCEye Plus for computer access and infrared environmental controls. Tony has mastered the technology to the heights of accuracy, precision and speed. It is amazing to watch him!

I personally feel that if Tony did not have the technology, the disease would have progressed much faster. Though the condition is now in an advanced stage, Tony is still an active CEO of his company, Wilson McLain Plumbing. Every day, I get to see him at work in his home office and see the technology in action as he emails and texts his employees, reviews financial statements, and reviews and approves payroll.

Tony’s colleagues agree he is proactive in professional and personal matters. “I have been able to learn so much from him because of his ability to communicate,” said Marny Webster, who less than two years ago joined Wilson McLain as Tony’s executive assistant. “My job would not be necessary if he didn’t have this device.”

Wilson McLain Vice President Roger McLain says, “This eye gaze software has definitely been a game changer for both Tony and all the people he interacts with.”
Employee Christina Ansell says, “When I first started with the company three years ago, Tony was still able to speak. I am grateful for the technology that allows Tony to continue to run his business, communicate with us and continue his success.

Friend and business partner Jay Walthall says “communicating with Tony would be much more difficult and far less personal” without it.

When I asked Tony where he sees himself in five years, he said, “I don’t see any limitations. I expect to keep growing my business and venture out into the real estate market.”

Stay tuned for Part 2!



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