Health Team

Web Pages Link Patients to Family, Friends

Posted July 18, 2007 7:39 p.m. EDT
Updated July 18, 2007 8:32 p.m. EDT

Hospitals across the country are using personal Web sites to encourage patients facing a long recovery from illness or injury.

CarePages allow a patient and family to create a Web page through which they can update friends and family about their loved one's progress. Supporters can also post notes of encouragement for the patient.

In the Triangle, WakeMed and UNC Hospitals offer CarePages as a service, and Duke Medical Center is considering providing it. Other hospitals offer Internet programs that are similar to CarePages.

Mike Coppotelli, whose daughter, Shelby Coppotelli, was treated at WakeMed, said his family's CarePage was an invaluable communications tool during his daughter's recovery.

"It's almost like an added layer of pressure, that you're dealing with everything else and then you feel guilty in some respects that you're not contacting and letting other people know," Coppotelli said.

Shelby, 14, underwent emergency surgery after a malformed cluster of blood vessels burst in her cerebellum. Similar to a stroke victim, she faced a difficult recovery.

"It went from being unconscious to taking her first bite of food to speaking her first words," said Coppotelli.

Throughout her recovery, Shelby said her CarePage allowed to stay in touch with "some people from school. My good friends and some people from church."

"Within a matter of 15 minutes, we can communicate with 300 people," said Coppotelli.

Despite all the time in the hospital and in recovery, Shelby was able to complete eighth grade and be graduated from Dillard Drive Middle School with her classmates.

Through regular physical therapy at WakeMed, Shelby said she hopes to get rid of her wheelchair. Her doctors said a full recovery is possible, but could take a few years.

Her father said that he hopes her CarePage may one day help her look back on this struggle with a smile.

"We're going to print all this off and put it in a binder, so this is something she'll have forever," Coppotelli said.