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About Sickkids
About SickKids

December 9, 2009

Upopolis scores with Zachary Starkman, as SickKids becomes the largest centre in Canada to offer Upopolis to its patients

“It’s a pretty good idea.”

Zachary Starkman, 15, is already a fan of Upopolis. As a SickKids patient ambassador, Zachary was one of the first SickKids patients to try out the online social network that was created for young hospital patients. He’s excited about it and he’s excited for all his friends at SickKids too!

“This will be a great way for me to keep in touch with my friends and with other children at SickKids and across the country who are dealing with the same issues as I am,” says Zachary.

Zachary will be front and centre at today’s big launch event, rubbing shoulders with the Honourable Deb Matthews, Ontario’s Minister of Health and Long-Term Care and other special guests as SickKids becomes the largest centre in Canada to offer Upopolis to its patients.

Created by Kids’ Health Links Foundation and powered by TELUS, Upopolis provides the best features of social networking, in a safe, password-protected environment, linking young patients in hospitals across Canada, so they can share experiences and support one another. It offers personal profiles, personal blogs, instant chat and child-friendly games.

“It’s important for all children, no matter what hospital they are in, to know there are other children out there who are just like them, going through the same things they are,” says Zachary.

Zachary was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease called nephrotic syndrome at 19 months of age. He has taken almost 10 pills and various liquid medications each day for as long as he can remember, and since diagnosis has been a regular visitor to SickKids. Until 2007, the disease was manageable. He was active and energetic and even played Double-A hockey. But in early 2008 he suffered kidney failure and months later his kidneys needed to be removed. This past summer Zachary had a kidney transplant but his underlying condition recurred, requiring him to undergo more treatment at SickKids several times each week since the transplant.

“I’m at SickKids a lot. When I’m here for long periods and I’m not able to get to Marnie’s Lounge (the patient recreation room at SickKids) and chat with my friends, I feel isolated, lonely,” says Zachary. “There’s a lot going on at SickKids. So much stuff goes by that you miss out on. This will really help me feel connected with everyone.”

Today’s approach of family-centred and patient-centred care has been proven to have a more positive impact on recovery. At SickKids, our Child Life Department looks after the patient experience.