Check Your Health: Therapy Animals in the Hospital

Check Your Health - Therapy Animals

(KUTV) Extended hospital stays can be emotionally challenging for almost anyone. However, there are some very special four-legged friends that can help motivate patients in their recovery and healing process.

Fred Graves and his wife were watching Monday Night Football and he decided to take out the trash when suddenly, everything changed.

“My legs slipped and went one way and my body went the other, and I landed right on my head and it snapped my neck back,” says Fred.

So far, his injury has required surgery and a lot of rehab. When he first came to the hospital, he couldn’t move either of his legs nor his left arm. He is current focused on recovering and relearning everyday skills. He says his favorite days of rehab are when he gets a visit from an Intermountain Therapy Animal.

“Once you let a dog come in, everybody’s excited,” says Fred.

Diva the Lab and Walter the Bassett Hound are regular visitors at Intermountain Medical Center. These animals visit with patients, boost morale, and even help by participating in rehab.

“Anything that the therapist has for their patient that day we can adapt to our therapy and so it’s pretty awesome,” says Susan Daynes with Intermountain Therapy Animals.

The day we visited, Fred worked on walking by pushing Diva in his chair and worked on his arm movement by throwing the ball to her.

One of the biggest benefits of animal-assisted therapy has a lot to do with the physiological and emotional benefits: lowered blood pressure and respiratory rates, decreased loneliness, comfort, feeling of trust, safety, and self-esteem.

The great thing about these animal visits it that patients are not the only ones who reap benefits from man’s best friend.

“He makes us smile just to see him. He can take the worst day for the staff and turn it into – I’m a kid again,” says Veronica Killion, Registered Nurse and Unit Education Coordinator for Surgical Trauma at Intermountain Medical Center.

“The thing that you understand about dogs is they understand what’s going on around them, and they understand human beings more than we understand them,” says Fred.

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