In November, Mission Hospital’s Behavioral Health Unit (located in Laguna Beach, California) opened their doors to a Pet Therapy Program, which has been offered by the hospital as a Community Benefit service to patients for the past 8 years. Over a dozen dedicated Pet Teams have volunteered their time in an effort to support the healing journey for patients, and most recently, two teams have opened their hearts to the behavioral health patients. Recently, staff shared a story of a patient who was significantly changed due to a visit with Mia, who has been a canine volunteer with Mission Hospital for 7 years.
“We had a patient with a diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder who experienced major loss and was having a very difficult time coping. She suffered with thoughts of suicide, insomnia, and severe social isolation. She had these symptoms for days and had not attended any patient groups. While she initially declined pet therapy, further prompting encouraged her to participate. Initially, she simply sat next to Mia, but after a few minutes, she began gingerly petting her and her physical affect began to change. She walked out of the group room with a small smile on her face. From this day until discharge, she became more and more visible on the unit, began sleeping better, and no longer had thoughts of suicide. We are convinced that she would have been here far longer if she hadn’t been given the opportunity to make that initial step to spend some time with Mia.”
It is connections like this one that make our work at Mission a sacred experience and help to bring wholeness to our patients, our co-workers and our community. Many thanks to volunteers Pam and Daleen who take hours from their day to prepare their dogs and spend time at our ministry; without them, these sacred moments would not be possible.