Not Missing a Beat - Literally - in Afghanistan

Guntersville, Alabama – November 21, 2011 – Even though Joshua Ivey is stationed in Afghanistan with the U. S. Army, he has been to all of his wife Jennifer’s prenatal visits to Dr. Lance Justice at Medical Centers OB/GYN in Guntersville. He’s so excited about their first child that he didn’t want to miss out on anything.

He was deployed in December with the Alabama Army National Guard 1165th Military Police Company. The Albertville couple had tried for two years to have a baby and after Joshua was home on leave this summer, Jennifer became pregnant.

In the three months of her pregnancy, Joshua has seen all her examinations, seen the ultra-sound image of their child and talked with Dr. Justice about the baby’s progress. He’s right there in the examining room every minute of Jennifer’s monthly appointments, not physically but instead his image and his voice come from a laptop computer equipped with a web camera sitting next to the examination table. He sees and hears Jennifer and Dr. Justice, and they see and hear him.

They’re using the internet access system, Skype. It allows for both an audio and video connection between Guntersville and Afghanistan. The network is operated as a division of Microsoft.

“Jennifer asked if I would allow her husband to be an active part of her pregnancy by being present through Skype,” said Dr. Justice. “I thought it was a great idea . It’s a great tool and has proven to be a very easy technology. I can’t help but think that other physicians will realize its benefits, but I don’t think much has been written about it.”

Jennifer and Joshua each have a laptop computer and use Skype to keep in touch since Joshua arrived in Afghanistan. He said the support he’s been able to continue with his wife through the Internet means everything to him.

“I didn’t want to miss out on all the events before the baby was born so we thought we could use Skype. We didn’t know if a doctor would go along with our idea, but we were hopeful. We practiced perfecting the connection at home before I returned to Afghanistan. There I worked with my superior officer to have the time to be available when Jennifer was with Dr. Justice,” said Joshua, via the internet connection.

Joshua has struck up a friendship with Dr. Justice and praises him for being so understanding in helping make the communication effort work. “I really like him,” he said.

Jennifer agrees with her husband. She’s mentioned the Skype idea to a number of other military wives she knows, but “they don’t have as cool a doctor as I have,” she said.

Dr. Justice has set Jennifer’s appointments so that her husband could be present and he’s gone up and beyond to include him in every minute of their time together. Jennifer’s appointments are at 8:30 in the morning, which for Joshua is 7:00 at night a day ahead of Alabama time.

“Sometimes the global Internet isn’t too dependable, fuzzy at times, but overall, we’ve had good connections,” Jennifer said. “If Joshua was here, he’d be right next to me every minute of my appointment.”

Jennifer was one of Dr. Justice’s first patients in Guntersville after arriving at Marshall Medical Center North in August. A Scottsboro native, he got his undergraduate degree at UAB and graduated med school at the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine. He completed his residency at Oklahoma State University Medicine Center.

“The younger generation is comfortable with this technology. They grew up on internet and wireless connections,” he said. “We will see more and more of these kinds of uses in the medical field. I can see the value for families that are separated for whatever reason. They’ll be able to be together in either critical or joyous times.”

Dr. Justice said he was happy to be a part of making sure a father was part of the birthing process, especially when the father wants it so badly. He plans to write a letter to the military, trying to get Joshua home for the birth.

Boy or girl? The couple doesn’t know as yet, although Joshua is certain it’s a boy.

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