It took Jade Gadd 11 hours to finish her first English GCSE. At home with an invigilator and her parents on standby, she spent most of the scheduled 45-minute breaks having stress-induced seizures, and at one point amnesia stole her memory. She didn’t just forget what she was writing – she forgot who she was.
Jade is 17 and suffers from hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS), a rare hereditary condition that causes different systems in the body to shut down with no warning. Despite her debilitating condition, Jade, with the help of an extended network of family, friends and tutors, has three GCSEs. It is impossible to overstate this achievement: Jade has spent much of the last year unable to even get out of bed. This, in turn, has led to her also suffering from anxiety and depression.
Bee is Jade’s telepresence robot, it can be placed carried in a rucksack and placed on Jade’s empty desk in a classroom, to act as her eyes, ears and voice while she listens in from home.
When Jade returns to her school, Durham Johnston, next Wednesday, she will watch lessons live via an app on her iPad, and – here’s what sets Bee’s functionality apart from apps such as Skype or FaceTime – she will be able to move the robot’s head 360 degrees to see her classmates during group sessions. If she wants to contribute to the class, she can turn on a light remotely to alert the teacher and then communicate through a built-in speaker.
“Bee lets me do everything I didn’t think I’d ever be able to do,” says Jade. “It allows me to be there, and hear first hand what’s being said, and be part of the class.”
“Also, it can be very isolating being in a little room reading notes all day. Bee makes it exciting again, because I’m no longer scared of what I’m not going to be able to do. I’m excited about what I’m going to learn.”
By Tabi Jackson Gee - 30 August 2017