Healthy Living in the North

Making a difference, one paw print at a time

Sandra Wyatt with dogs

Sandra Wyatt with Jazz (left) and Bella (right).

In the paediatrics unit at the University Hospital of Northern BC (UHNBC), we like to do what we can to bring smiles to the faces of our patients and their families – and what better to bring smiles than the wagging tail of a cute happy dog?

Meet Bella. A friend of mine adopted Bella from a Chihuahua rescue centre after a not so great start to her life. With much love, affection, good food, daily walks and training, in a positive manner, by a loving family, my friend and I began teaching her the many new skills necessary in the hope she would qualify for therapy work with sick children.

Bella and Jazz

Bella, 5 years old, and Jazz, 6 months old, honourary UHNBC staff members.

Finally, after much work, she graduated to twice weekly visits to the paediatric floor at UHNBC where she became, with staff approval, an honorary staff member! We have a photograph of her, proudly wearing her paediatric sweatshirt, on the wall for all to view.

Her main role is to calm and distract worried patients when they are having blood work done, examinations, or shots. Bella’s calm presence lifts the spirits of both staff and patients, and while she snuggles up to a patient who cuddles her back, it often brings contentment and a touch of normality to a scary situation. There are a lot more smiles when Miss Bella is around.

Bella’s family recently moved to Vancouver Island, but she still continues to do the “work” she loves and keep up her skills when her family flies or drives her up for monthly visits. Bella now has a new job too – training a replacement! Jazz is another therapy dog that now visits regularly to “fill in” for Bella and keep the smiles coming in the paeds unit.

Your turn to share – have you heard of pets helping in the recovery of people with an illness?

Sandra Wyatt

About Sandra Wyatt

Sandra Wyatt is the child life specialist in the paediatrics department of UHNBC in Prince George. She spends much of her "not so spare" time, developing and running her small dog daycare/boarding business. With rescue dogs of her own, walking 10km in a day is a usual day for her. Besides walking and working, Sandra loves gardening and this past spring, she re-arranged her whole garden to also “rescue” new plants a friend left behind after moving.

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Recovering from an injury? Slow and steady wins this race

Jonathon with Jay Feaster

Jonathon, with his crutches, posing with Jay Feaster, Calgary Flames general manager.

Ever had an injury that prevented you from participating in the activities you love? I’ve always loved to play team sports such as soccer, hockey, ultimate Frisbee, curling, and other activities including hiking, kayaking, and golf. Unfortunately, four years ago I hurt my knee playing soccer and the idea that I wouldn’t be able to do any of those while I recovered was more painful than the injury itself.

In December 2010 and July 2011 I went in for surgeries to repair my knee. The first surgery was to repair the meniscus, and the second was to repair my Anterior Crucial Ligament (ACL). From the time that I hurt my knee, to the clearance from the doctor that my knee was good for most activities again earlier this month, it was very hard for me to not be very active.

With any type of injury, it is critical to take care of yourself and ensure you get the proper treatment you need to heal. This is a lesson I learned the hard way. Immediately after my injury I went into the doctor, but being young and impatient, I made the impulse decision to play ball hockey anyway. Of course, this further damaged my knee and left me in a great deal of pain. After awhile, I finally realized I needed to take care of myself and I went back to the doctor to start on the path to recovery.

Prior to the injury I didn’t enjoy spending time at the gym, electing to get my physical exercise in other ways. But once I started going to the gym to do strengthening exercises for my knee, I found that being in a controlled environment like that helped me to ensure I wasn’t overworking my knee and potentially re-injuring it. Over time I have found activities at the gym that I enjoy and will continue to do even though I can now return to things like golf and hockey.

All in all, making sure to take care of myself after the surgeries meant being able to eventually return to the things I love. I learned that there’s no point in trying to be manly and walk off injuries.

My advice to anyone who has hurt themselves, especially men playing sports, is to man up and make sure to take care of your injury. For more information on men’s health, preventing and recovering from injuries, visit men.northernhealth.ca.

Jonathon Dyck

About Jonathon Dyck

Jonathon is a communications officer at Northern Health. Originally from Airdrie, Alberta, Jonathon has a broadcasting diploma from Mount Royal College in Calgary, Alberta, and a BA with a major in communications from Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C. Jonathon enjoys golf, hockey, curling, hiking, biking, and canoeing. He is also an avid sports fan and attends as many sporting events as humanly possible, including hockey, soccer, baseball, football, rugby, basketball, and lacrosse. (Jonathon no longer works with Northern Health, we wish him all the best.)

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