Sons use e-books to help virus-stricken dad, other patients

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Nicky, right, and his brother Sam Woolf talk about their project Books for Dad at their home in London, Saturday, Aug. 15, 2020. Geoff Woolf gave his sons a love for literature. When he got sick with COVID-19, they turned to books to help him and others. The 73-year-old retired lawyer was hospitalized in London in March, and within days he was on a ventilator in intensive care. Then sons Nicky, a 33-year-old journalist, and Sam, a 28-year-old actor, had an idea: Maybe literature could help him and other patients. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

LONDON – Geoff Woolf gave his sons a love for literature. When he got sick with COVID-19, they turned to books to help him — and others.

The 73-year-old retired lawyer was hospitalized in London in March, and within days he was on a ventilator in intensive care. Unable to visit, his family could only watch from afar with frustration and dismay.

Then sons Nicky, a 33-year-old journalist, and Sam, a 28-year-old actor, had an idea: Maybe literature could help him and other patients.

“He always said if he was in hospital for a long time, he would be able to deal if he had a book,” Sam said.

The brothers loaded an e-reader with Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” — “his comfort read,” according to Sam — and played it for their unconscious father.

Doctors said, ”'We can’t tell you he’ll definitely hear it. But we also can’t tell you he won’t,’” Sam said. "There is power in hearing a voice.

The brothers set out to acquire more devices for other patients. As they came to terms with the likelihood of losing their father, they saw the project, which they named Books for Dad, as a legacy.

Nicky and Sam recruited a team of volunteers to load e-readers, donated by audiobooks company Audible, with content, including classic novels, thrillers and podcasts. They delivered an initial batch of 20 — disinfected and individually bagged — to the hospital treating their father, along with single-use headphones donated by British Airways. Soon they were distributing dozens more to other hospitals around the U.K.