The Eagles were not going to let the COVID-19 pandemic stop them from the annual Halloween visit to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
"Our patients and families look forward to this event every year," said Matt Piontkowski, patient media and events supervisor at CHOP.
Due to the pandemic, the hospital has strict limitations on outside visitors. However, the hospital admits new patients every day. Families are uprooted from their sense of normal. The Eagles had to find a way to visit. And they did.
The team provided two remote-controlled robots – dressed in Eagles jerseys, of course – that look like a Segway transportation device that can move from room to room. A tablet is mounted on each robot to allow for the player to see the patient face-to-face virtually. This past Tuesday, Jordan Mailata and Joe Ostman donned silly hats and drove the robots around the hospital, bringing smiles and laughter along the way.
"It's things like this that make me grateful for the job I have, to be in the position that I'm in, and have the platform that I have," Mailata said. "I think it's really important now, especially for kids, to try and spice up their day, especially with what they're going through. It's really sad. Even with the robot, you can see all certain types of machines and devices in their room. I was quite taken aback by it because I wasn't expecting that kind of machinery just sitting in their room, the stuff that they need to survive every day."
In a "normal" year, the players would go to a large, open area where several patients could come down and spend time with the players. This year, the robots allowed the players to visit patients who otherwise would not have participated due to their conditions.
"We were so used to that central normal, being able to do an in-person event and packing our atrium or studio or even patient floors with special guests or visitors, but we really had to use this time to think outside the box to see what we could do better to still bring these experiences to our patients and families in order to normalize the patient and family experience during this time," Piontkowski said.
This wasn't the first virtual visit to CHOP for the Eagles this season. In September, Mailata and Ostman were among the players who participated in a fun Q&A session with patients who could connect from their hospital room through a tablet. Mailata comes away inspired by the toughness and the courage of the children he interacts with every time.
"Even these kids who are so young can teach you so much about life," Mailata said. "I think it all goes back to just me as a human being, at the end of the day we're all human beings, and just ground myself to where I came from and being that person who can be there for someone. I've been really lucky my whole life to have people who have shown me the way."