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May 15, 2018 - Hospital patient Cynthia Pettway ‘virtually’ takes part in graduation ceremony from USA Children's & Women's in Mobile

MOBILE, Ala. -- When high school senior Cynthia Pettway discovered she would have to miss her graduation ceremony because she was hospitalized, the Child Life staff at USA Children’s & Women’s Hospital quickly went to work to make sure she could still take part in the big day.

“We can’t let children miss these opportunities,” said Kim Thompson-Yates, coordinator of the Mapp Family & Child Life program at USA Children’s & Women’s Hospital.

With less than three days until Pettway’s graduation, Mobile County Public School System teachers, who work inside the hospital, and other staff began coordinating with the school system’s technology department to include a robot clad in a cap and gown at LeFlore Magnet School’s graduation ceremony at the Mitchell Center.

Back at the hospital, a large monitor was set up so Pettway and her family could watch the graduation ceremony live. The graduating senior also used a laptop and an iPad to move the robot -- a Segway with an iPad attached at the top -- across the stage.

On Graduation Day, Monday, May 14,, Cynthia donned a dark green cap and gown that mostly covered her hospital armbands. She entered the conference room to whistles and cheers. Then, the honor student took a seat at the front of the room next to some of her younger siblings, cousins and her parents.

After speeches from school leaders, Cynthia patiently watched the big screen and waited for her name to be called. When it was finally her turn, she used an iPad to control the robot to virtually walk across the stage. Cameras flashed. Her mother beamed. Cynthia grinned and brushed away tears.

Surrounded by more than 40 wellwishers at the hospital, the crowd erupted in cheers when Cynthia’s name was called. Eight miles away at the Mitchell Center, thousands of others clapped and hollered as the robot made its way across the stage.

"It was perfect," said Cynthia’s mother, Rachael Johnson. "We are so grateful for the experience. We loved it.”

About USA Children's & Women's Hospital

USA Children’s & Women’s Hospital is one of five freestanding hospitals in the country dedicated specifically to the health care needs of children and women, offering Mobile’s only neonatal and pediatric intensive care units, pediatric oncology and sickle cell outpatient center and high-risk obstetrical care. With more than 2,800 births annually, USA Children’s & Women’s Hospital is the area’s leader in deliveries. 

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