Two new workers joined C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital last July and instantly became the top dogs on campus.
Denver and Anna are hospital dogs whose mission is to bring comfort through bedside visits and motivation during therapy and rehabilitation. They are a joyous sight for Little Victors, as Mott calls its young patients, and their families.
“It is amazing how much these dogs do just by their presence,” said Rev. Lindsay Bona, Mott’s manager of spiritual care, head of the Paws4Patients program and Anna’s handler. “I have seen them bring hope and light and a smile to people who are having the worst day of their lives. They provide that unconditional love. These dogs know what people need and they bring it to them.”
A Fetching Event
The Paws4Patients program is just one of the many reasons to celebrate at CHAMPS for Mott, a fundraiser co-presented by Delta Air Lines and Lexus of Ann Arbor. The event includes a Culinary Gala on May 20 and a golf outing at the Oakland Hills Country Club on May 22.
A Delta Air Lines hangar at Detroit Metro will be transformed into a chic party space where 20 celebrated local chefs will create signature dishes for a strolling dinner. The evening also includes live and silent auctions (Super Bowl tickets, anyone?) and music by the Dan Rafferty Band.
The golf outing gives duffers the chance to play on one of Michigan’s most prestigious courses while enjoying a complete breakfast, hearty lunch, gourmet dinner and contests, including the chance to win a brand-new Lexus for a hole-in-one.
Paws for Patients
Going back to ducklings paddling in tubs alongside patient beds, animal therapy has been in place in some form at pediatric care programs at Michigan Medicine (formerly the University of Michigan Health System) for more than 90 years. Since 1987, teams from Therapaws of Michigan have been visiting patients with dogs. Adding Denver and Anna to the staff was the logical next step to continue Mott’s mission of caring for the complete family.
“It is not only the patient we are trying to help, it’s the entire family. When one person is affected, everybody is affected,” noted Joel Maier, a Mott child life specialist and Denver’s caregiver. “After all, dogs are part of the family, too.”
Paws4Patients is just one of the innovations that makes Mott Children’s Hospital so highly regarded.
Since 1903, the University of Michigan has provided comprehensive, specialized health with the mission to integrate clinical care, education, research and advocacy to advance the health status of children, women and their families and communities statewide. Mott’s striking new hospital, opened in December 2011, consists of a 12-story inpatient wing and a nine-story outpatient wing that together encompass over 1 million square feet. Each spacious inpatient room is private, has sleep space for a parent and a peaceful view of the surrounding scenery. Even the 46 NICU rooms are private.
In addition to leading-edge heart surgery – some even performed in the womb – Michigan’s largest pediatric research facility is world-renowned for treating cancer, childhood obesity, neuromuscular disease, genomics and other health issues.
Denver and Anna aren’t the only things bringing smiles to Mott, which is consistently ranked among the nation’s top children’s hospital in all 10 pediatric specialties evaluated by U.S. News & World Report.
Child and Family Life Activity Centers offer the chance to unwind and leave illness behind. Medical play, art and music therapy help children restore a sense of control and mastery. Families even have their own exercise room for their exclusive use.
Great emphasis is placed on making Little Victors feel honored and respected in all ways.
“We get to know who our patients are outside the hospital, what kind of things they like such as movies and video games,” said Maier. “It is nice to know we are taking care of all aspect of the patients, not just their physical needs.”
Long before Anna and Denver could shake a hand or sit on command, every possible aspect of the program was addressed by departments as diverse as infection control and legal.
“Everyone was on board and wonderfully supportive,” said Bora.
The 2-year-old golden retrievers (Denver does have some yellow lab mixed in) were trained by Canine Assistants, a non-profit organization that provides service dogs for children and adults with physical disabilities or other special needs.
“They are heads and feet above all other organizations that do this,” said Maier. “They have a heart for it and you can tell.”
And heart is what it’s all about.
“We see a patient not as a list of medical problems but as a person who is with their family and has many, many needs –medical, spiritual and emotional,” said Bona. “People go on this very hard journey whether they’re in the hospital for a day or for months. We want to make it as good as it can be and give some joy in those dark moments.”
The dogs not only comfort patients, parents and siblings, they often give cheer to hospital caregivers who need a smile.
“When the staff is doing better they are performing better care and it all trickles down to the patients and families we are working with,” said Maier.
“Denver and Anna sure do make an impact,” said Gene Skidmore, Michigan Medicine’s assistant director of corporate foundation relations. “They just seem to know how to bring out the best in people.”
Additional service dogs may one day join the Mott team. As Bona noted, “You can never have enough puppy love.”
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