Ruminations

Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Monday, February 02, 2015

For Love of a Dog

"Remember this is ICU -- you don't bring nothing in there. But I think they ran out of [ideas]."
"[Family dog choices] a brown-eyed Siberian huskie named Sasha. She's a pin in the butt. Then I have a Boston terrier named Matilda, which [Jack Bennett] loves. But we couldn't bring her because she's nippy. And then we have little Pipi. He's half sausage and half poodle. He's our cutie. He's our star."
"So we brought [Pipi] in and he was on the bed, because he's so tiny. And we put my father's hand on his fur. And then the dog licked him, and boom, a 180-degree turn!"
"My father woke up an ICU patient. My father woke up. He opened his eyes and started responding to stimuli.That's the love of a dog, eh?"
"Medical treatment helps, but love of an animal -- there should be more of that."
Susan Bennett, Montreal
Richard "Jack" Bennett, 84, with family dog Pipi in Ch√Ęteauguay. 
Courtesy of Susan Bennett

Susan Bennett's world crosses between the medical community where she is a health worker at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal, and an appreciation for the emotional-draw power of companion animals. She is very well aware how critical medical science is to the health recovery of a seriously ill person, but cognizant as well that sometimes it takes an extraordinary connection between humankind and canines to draw the former into a state of conscious health.

She has the example of her own father's situation as someone who was in dire need of a reason to return to life, a tactile, emotion-driven response that would draw him from where he was, hovering between life and death, to resume his engagement with life, after having undergone emergency brain surgery. Her father, Richard Bennett, had taken a nasty fall on the front steps of his daughter's house in Chateauguay, Quebec.

After the surgery to save his life, Richard Bennett failed to respond to all attempts to bring him back to consciousness. For a week, he remained in a coma post-surgery and nothing that doctors attempted served to revive the 84-year-old patient. He remained comatose. His daughter and her husband brought along an iPhone recording to his bedside, featuring the barking of the family's three dogs. Mr. Bennett's response was a faint stir, nothing more.

But even that hint of a stir, gave heart to Mr. Bennett's daughter. She felt that were her father to have the real-life presence of one of the family dogs at his bedside, he might very well respond fully. So she set about persuading hospital staff to enable her to bring one of the dogs that meant so much to her father into the hospital. The hospital has a firm no-pets-allowed policy, but special permission was given on this occasion to allow a small, life-saving dog into the Intensive Care Unit.

There was a full response, as hoped. Mr. Bennett remains in hospital recovering from his surgery, but he is fully awake and aware. "I haven't seen that kind of turnaround before, no", one ICU nurse commented. "We made an exception in this case", hospital spokeswoman Karina Sieres explained. Adding that it is the policy of the hospital to permit dogs to enter the hospital to comfort patients on palliative care and in oncology units.

She does remain a skeptic, however, remarking that the little dog cannot scientifically be given full credit for having brought the comatose man back to full awareness. Susan Bennett, however, knows better.

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