Zachary Starkman has been in and out of hospitals since he was 19 months old, overhearing hospital talk. Now an online social networking site designed for young patients can help him figure out what it means.

“You hear nurses using words, words like febrile, so with this I can look it up,” Zach, 15, told the Toronto Star yesterday as the Hospital for Sick Children launched the Upopolis system for its patients.

As well as learning that febrile means feverish, the North Toronto Collegiate Grade 10 student started a blog and connected with another young hockey fanatic at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa to commiserate over their losing teams.

“It’s going to be really helpful to kids who are here for a really long period of time,” said Zach, who has been treated for an autoimmune kidney disease since he was a toddler.

“It’s really user-friendly. It’s a bit more than Facebook. You can connect with other patients and friends as well, so you can keep up with them. You’re able to feel as normal as you can.”

Upopolis also lets young patients “connect with your teachers, who can send you homework assignments. I know from experience, I got anxious about catching up when I was away.”

Basile Papaevangelou and his daughter, Christina, created the non-profit Kids’ Health Link Foundation in 2007 after Christina and her teenage friend, Katy McDonald, both found themselves in hospital with serious illnesses. Christina pulled through. Katy didn’t.

In 2007, the foundation launched Upopolis at McMaster Children’s Hospital in Hamilton. Since then, the foundation and the telecommunications company Telus have extended the Upopolis network to B.C. Children’s Hospital in Vancouver, IWK Health Centre in Halifax, CHEO in Ottawa and Lutherwood in Waterloo.