Kira, the “four-legged doctor” who accompanies children and adolescents during their hospital stay



Kira and one of her "little" Medical / (Courtesy Swiss Medical)
Kira and one of her “little” doctors / (Courtesy Swiss Medical)

The look is essential. Until she gets approval, Kira doesn’t get on the bed. With a single gesture, she knows that she can start playing. First, she pretends to be asleep, and then she raises her nose to play. For a while, she will be the patient and a child will be her doctor.. Review through, the little one “heals” her with a fantasy injection. Happy after her healing, she “high-fives” her paw and leaves the sanatorium room wagging her tail.

This story, which is a simple concatenation of words on a line, is much more for Kira and each of the pediatric patients waiting for her. It is that this “four-legged doctor”, since 2019, visits hospitalized babies, children and adolescents and makes the sanatorium environment more friendly. with your presence It achieves that patients express their fears, reduce anxiety and have greater adherence to treatments.

Before getting into bed and starting to play, Kira waits for the boys' approval / (Courtesy Swiss Medical)
Before getting into bed and starting to play, Kira waits for the boys’ approval / (Courtesy Swiss Medical)

Kira she is a breed dog australian labradoodle, a Labrador/Poodle mix, who is currently 3 years old and has been trained in animal-assisted therapy since she was a puppy. Since 2019, She is part of the psychology service in pediatric hospitalization of Swiss Medical Private Medicine. His companion is psychologist Carolina Michawho guides her in the work she does with pediatric patients, from babies to adolescents, in their recovery or treatment.

According to the expert, “the purpose of the visit is therapeutic. Kira is not just a visiting dog. There is a professional-can dyad with specific purposes. After carrying out the interconsultation with the health team, the needs of each patient are consideredsuch as mobilization with a high horizon or the channeling of anguish”.

Kira manages to get the little ones, who were reluctant before, to accept the treatments / (Courtesy Swiss Medical)
Kira manages to get the little ones, who were reluctant before, to accept the treatments / (Courtesy Swiss Medical)

Once you obtain the endorsement of the medical and infectious disease team, Kira enters the scene as a mediator and facilitator to achieve that clinical-therapeutic objective that was scheduled beforehand. If a child needs an injection and is very reluctant, she will transform into the patient and be the first to receive it from the child’s hand. “Not only does it break with the sanatorium climate, but therapeutic objectives are achieved through Kira that are often difficult to achieve, such as a patient easily expressing their emotions, fears and anxieties, and accepting medical indications. Also there is a marked improvement in adherence to treatmentMicha pointed out.

After becoming “friends”, many children happily await the next visit of “Kiri”, a name that he adopted from the hands of the boys themselves. In addition, she receives beautiful gifts wagging her tail with happiness, such as from drawings, to dolls and costumes, Kira is the spoiled one of the boys. “This helps psychoprophylaxis a lot, because the patient takes an active role of control and familiarization with the situations they are going to experience, from a place of power and not passivity.”, explained the psychologist.

Kira, with her presence, makes patients express their fears, reduce anxiety and have greater adherence to treatments / (Courtesy Swiss Medical)
Kira, with her presence, makes patients express their fears, reduce anxiety and have greater adherence to treatments / (Courtesy Swiss Medical)

Micha pointed out that hospitalization, both for the children and for the family nucleus, is a disruptive experience. It generates anguish, anxiety and a lot of stress, with which treatments must overcome an extra barrier. That is why the graduate in psychology investigated what the real benefits of therapeutic accompaniment of a pet were.

In the words of the expert, the answers to her doubts were settled thanks to a study carried out by the National Institutes of Health of the United States (NIH, for its acronym in English). According to the document, in the so-called “pet therapy” patients reported decreased pain, reduced stress, more relaxed breathing, improved mood, and increased wishes for a speedy recovery. In addition to an increase in the verbal interactions of the patients, the increase in the ability to convey emotions (which are often blocked by anguish), greater self-esteem, reduction in anxiety levels and greater adherence to treatment is evident.

Hospitalization, both for the children and for the family, is a disruptive experience, said Micha (Kindness Swiss Medical)
Hospitalization, both for the children and for the family, is a disruptive experience, said Micha (Kindness Swiss Medical)

“After thoroughly investigating these benefits, I presented the project to Swiss Medical, where they decided to be pioneers in including Kira to intervene with patients within the psychology service,” said the psychologist, specialized in hospitalization. The project began in 2019 and, after being interrupted by the pandemic, it was resumed at the end of 2021. Currently, his visit takes place twice a week at the Zabala Clinic and twice a week at the Los Arcos Sanatorium. “I saw concrete changes. Both in the mood of the patient and his parents. In addition, Kira is an engine for the boys to access situations that they often deny: walking after spinal surgery, taking medication they don’t like, getting an IV or going to the operating room.”, he listed.

The relationship between Kira and Micha is not just “professional”. “They gave it to me after 75 days. She lives with me and in my house she is our pet. My kids love her. But when we leave the house and she puts on the vest, she transforms. She knows that inside the sanatorium she has to change her reactions. She listens to me in everything while at home, many times it is not like that. She sleeps in my room, she has her bed and all the trinkets of a pet that she loves very much, ”said the expert.

“This helps psychoprophylaxis a lot, because the patient takes an active role in controlling and familiarizing himself with the situations he is going to experience, from a place of power and not passivity,” explained Micha / (Courtesy Swiss Medical)

Kira was born in the SPAL kennel, which works with Australian Labradoodles from the original founding lines of this breed. Each litter is programmed by individually monitoring the puppy, focusing on health care, early stimulation and socialization. She was specially chosen for her behavior from her first week and to guarantee her well-being, she is cared for by the Royal Canin company, which took over the monitoring of her diet, walks, health consultations, vaccinations, the studies she needs and even her toys.

His training lasted 8 months, where he became familiar with the sanatorium environment, noises, smells and learned specific commands to perform certain actions. At the same time, the doctor received instruction to fully understand and manage the animal. “With the prior consent of the patient, after a gesture, she gets on the bed alone in the marked area and, if appropriate, goes to bed with another command. Her temperament is balanced and docile, ideal for this type of therapy. She allows herself to be hugged, combed, caressed, give injections (without a needle of course), take blood pressure, hide and is desensitized, which even allows her to let herself be pulled by a baby, ”explained Micha.

This project was born as a dream and today it is real. It fills the soul to see the faces of the boys and their parents when they come into contact with Kira. Each situation is unique and emotion is a constant. The work we do leads to patients having a faster recovery and therefore, a shorter hospitalization time”, said the doctor and concluded: “The therapeutic scope is much greater than what I can see today, from my therapist’s gaze. In each visit something happens that pleasantly surprises. The experience itself will mark the way”.

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