Somewhere inside the Mount Carmel Grove City Intensive Care Unit in Grove City, Ohio on a recent morning, Morgan Sheehan and Holly Riegel stood next to a bed and helped the patient lying in front of them FaceTime with the family one last time in front of the person would be intubated and lose the ability to communicate, at least for now.
It was a moment that repeats itself over and over again in these days of COVID, a moment that never gets easier.
But as soon as Sheehan, unit coordinator for the ICU, and Riegel, a versatile patient technician, walked out of the room, they headed straight for a rest room to see Gracie, a 70-pound labradoodle doing her round to visit the exhausted. and emotionally destroyed hospital staff twice a week.
Sheehan got down on her knees and buried her face in Gracie’s black and white coat that morning last week.
“There’s my girl,” Sheehan cooed, rubbing the dog’s droopy ears. “She’s the best girl. Gracie always seems to show up on the toughest days.
Denise Minor, vice president of patient care services at Mount Carmel Health System and her head nurse, watched nearby. She is also Gracie’s human.
Minor decided over a year ago to have his dog trained as a therapy/comfort dog. With COVID protocols and restrictions at various pet locations, it took longer than expected, but she wasn’t giving up. It was personal to him.
Four years ago, in February, she and her siblings lost their father to suicide. Through her ensuing heartbreak, she watched her sister, Anita Rogers, make a difference with her own golden doodle, Charlie, a trained therapy dog that Rogers uses for her job as a high school guidance counselor in County County. Ross.
So once Gracie passed her training and the pandemic hit again this fall, Minor knew what she had to do.
She brings Gracie – whose own hospital administration ID badge declares her “Head of Therapy” – to work a few times a week. Most of the time, the dog is lounging at the desk. But for about an hour each day, she goes around, stopping at nurse stations to get pets, cuddles and treats and to give unconditional love.
The few minutes of comfort became even more critical last month as Ohio hospitals saw their highest number of COVID patients since the pandemic began.
“It’s been such an emotional strain because every patient is so sick,” Minor said.
Sheehan said it might be difficult for others to understand how just a few minutes with a pet could counter the chaos of an intensive care unit during the pandemic. But she and Riegel need no convincing. Their proof comes on days like a morning not too long ago when Minor brought Gracie in after two patients had already died, and it wasn’t even 9:30 a.m.
“For a second nothing else mattered. For just a second we were able to decompress and regroup,” Sheehan said, moved as she simply recounted the memory. “And then we said, ‘Now let’s go back. at work.'”