Thanks to MSNBC for this article.
Therapy Dogs Provide Hospital Patients With Unconditional Love
Sat., Nov. 24, 2007
LOS ANGELES – For 13 years, UCLA Medical Center has treated some critically ill patients with a dose of unconditional love — from therapy dogs.
KNBC’s Robert Kovacik said a car accident almost killed Jamie Hosn, who spent three months in a coma and faced a dim prognosis.
“They thought I would be like a baby,” Hosn said. “I couldn’t speak or eat or anything … I had a spinal cord injury. I am working on my trunk muscles and trying to strengthen my balance.”
Jamie’s recovery relies on an important therapist — a chocolate lab named Kobe.
Amy Peer, who has volunteered with UCLA Medical Center’s People Animal Connectin Program for almost 10 years, said she’s impressed with Jamie’s progress.
“I can’t get over your improvement in two weeks,” Peer said.
Peer said she has seen the profound difference working with a dog like Kobe can m ake.
“By the time they get down here, the reality of what has happened hits,” she said. “They are so depressed, and it is hard to motivate them to get them to work. And for the people that love animals, they are so taken by the interaction with they dog that they forget that they are actually working.”
Kovacik said that in some cases, patients forget they are actually waiting — for results, for word on whether a donor is ready — and the distraction is a welcome one.
“I don’t have no worries right now. And right here, right now, I am just great,” Sandra Williams, who is waiting for a new heart, told Kovacik as she visited a therapy dog.
Jack Barron started as a volunteer and is now director of the People Animal Connection.
“You bring a dog down the hallway, and that dog gets everybody’s focus, and everybody’s day has been improved, either by looking at that dog or getting down and playing with that dog,” Barron said.
Dr. Peter Rossi, of the Dept. of Neurology, agreed.
“The pets offer a wonderful way for patients to escape the hospital environment,” he said. Serena Real, a grandmother, told Kovacik she saw understanding in the therapy dog that visited her grandson.
“What she gave him at that moment, and I could see Lucy, and I told her, ‘Thank you for being here. Great dog. You know that he is sick.'”
Serena met Lucy when the pet therapist came to the intensive care unit to see her grandson. Louie Real had his first open-heart surgery when he was only 8 months old. Now, at age 13, Louie needed a new hear. He had to lie in a hospital bed for weeks, then months, waiting for a heart.
“He thought, ‘Oh, I am going to be here for a while and I will get to go home … He was so agitated,” Serena recalled.
But she said Lucy was a calming distraction for Louie, as well as a new friend.
Fore every patient, a Polaroid photos is taken with their pet therapist. Kovacik said Louie kept his photo close to his hospital bed. But he never got to go home. The heart transplant didn’t take, and he died a few months ago.
“She was just there to comfort him,” Serena remembered. “Yes, Lucy … she knew. Dogs know this; they sense that.”