CHEERING UP PATIENTS ONE WOOF AT A TIME
In the chemotherapy unit of The Royal Hospital for Women, Thursdays have become known as “Mac day”.
That’s the day that Mac, a Delta Society Therapy dog funded by The Royal Hospital for Women Foundation, makes his rounds, cheering up patients.
Within moments of entering the unit, Mac often knows instinctively who is about to have an operation, or who is particularly nervous or down-hearted.
“I don’t know how he does it,” says his owner, Rebecca Manson, who has worked as a midwife at The Royal for more than 14 years and who trained him through the Delta Society.
“He can tell instinctively who has cancer and who doesn’t.”
Mac will walk right up to the patients, and sit beside them in their chemotherapy chair or bedside, allowing them to pat him, or shake his paw. Often he’ll just be there with them, staring up at them with his friendly gaze.
Jennie Duggan, the unit’s clinical nurse consultant, says Mac always lifts the mood, no matter how many patients she has or what sort of treatment they’re having.
“There’s always a long queue of patients who want to take Mac home,” Ms Duggan said. “The patients we see are the ones that are here the longest and need the most cheering up. Having such a friendly dog in here creates a lovely atmosphere.”
One woman who had been bitten by a dog several years ago got closer to a four footed creature as she had for years when Mac visited the unit recently. Others are often reminded of former pets.
Mac had to pass a rigorous test before being allowed to work at The Royal Hospital for Women. Selection criteria included being able to walk past other dogs without reacting, being able to stay calm around prams, wheelchairs and crutches, and being able to walk past a muffin and not eat it.
“Whenever he sees me put my red T-shirt on, he goes to the door and wags his tail,” Ms Manson said. “He knows it’s a work day and he can’t wait to get there. He loves the attention.”
And there’s no doubt the patients love him as much as he loves the work. “He’s Mr Popularity, that’s for sure,” Ms Manson said. “Just looking at his face seems to calm everyone down.”
THE BELL PROJECT
Meg Bracken was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2018. During her chemotherapy at The Royal Hospital for Women, Meg wsas promted to raise enough money to install a bell in the ward so that patients could ring the victory bell at their end of their treatment.
The Bell Project has not only raised enough to have the bell installed but is close to being able to purchase some much-needed items for the ward.
You can support the Gynacaology Oncology Ward (Macquarie Ward) at The Royal and help make the traumatic experience a little better for the hundreds of women who receive treatment each year.