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‘Amazing’ robot gives lifeline to teenage leukaemia sufferer

PUBLISHED: 11:04 15 October 2020 | UPDATED: 11:50 15 October 2020

Leukaemia sufferer Alan Slomka is benefiting from a telepresence robot at Ipswich Hospital School. Picture: RAEDWALD TRUST

Leukaemia sufferer Alan Slomka is benefiting from a telepresence robot at Ipswich Hospital School. Picture: RAEDWALD TRUST

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An Ipswich teenager shielding while being treated for leukaemia says his life will be transformed by a new hi-tech classroom robot which will beam live school lessons to him back home.

Leukaemia sufferer Alan Slomka is benefiting from a telepresence robot at Ipswich Hospital School. Picture: RAEDWALD TRUSTLeukaemia sufferer Alan Slomka is benefiting from a telepresence robot at Ipswich Hospital School. Picture: RAEDWALD TRUST

The £2,500 AV1 telepresence robot will effectively take 13-year-old Alan Slomka’s place at school, using a live feed camera which means he can see, hear and speak to his teachers and classmates.

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It means he will be able to join in playtimes and lunch breaks with friends at the Raedwald Trust’s Ipswich Hospital School, almost as if he were there himself.

Having been first diagnosed with cancer in 2017, aged nine, Alan has missed over a year of school since his diagnosis.

The Raedwald Trust has bought four of the telepresence robots to help with young people's education. Picture: RAEDWALD TRUSTThe Raedwald Trust has bought four of the telepresence robots to help with young people's education. Picture: RAEDWALD TRUST

After the cancer returned in February this year, Alan has been told to stay off school because of his weak immune system following a bone marrow transplant.

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Alan said: “It will make such a big difference to me because I miss my friends so much, it is hardest thing about being off school for so long.

“The virus has made things even harder for me because I am not strong enough at the moment to go to school. This robot is amazing, it is the closest thing I have to being there right now.

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“I am looking forward to catching up in History class, as it is my favourite lesson. I love learning about the kings and queens and wars and stuff. I miss it so much.”

Alan’s mum Anna, who is a full-time carer for her son, says the robot is a real lifeline.

She added: “He is such a good boy, he does not complain, just gets on with and tries to be in a good mood but I know it gets to him.

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“His friends are growing up so fast and he is missing out on a lot of it. He has not been in school for over a year and it looks like to be a lot longer now after the operation and this virus still around.

“We cannot thank the Raedwald Trust enough for investing in our son. It will make a big difference in his life.

“There are so many children that can benefit from this technology.”

Angela Ransby, chief executive of the Raedwald Trust, said: “We are absolutely delighted that we have been able to bring this important technology to where it is vitally needed.

“With the funds donated to us by the Wolfson Foundation to purchase the robots, we are going to be able to support schools to keep their children living with medical or mental health needs connected to their classrooms and their peers.

“Quite simply, the robots have the power to change children’s lives.”


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