A special doctor at Children’s Hospital Colorado eases patients’ anxiety by doing everything from showing the children how to breathe through a mask before anesthesia, to demonstrating how to take medicine from a syringe, to helping them with physical therapy by walking with them at their own pace.
His name is Galaxy, and he’s actually a “dogtor.” The 6-year-old golden retriever, one of the hospital’s all-time favorite employees, stole the show on a recent tour of the National Science Writers Conference 2023.
Around 20 of the nearly 200 journalists who visited the CU Anschutz Medical Campus as part of the Oct. 6-10 event, toured the top Children’s Hospital in the region and learned about some of the aspects that make it so special.
Galaxy, who works with his handler and child life specialist Sarah Scott as a facility dog, has full access to the hospital and helps pediatric patients during their stay. He is a highly trained medical dog, who helps decrease the impact of medical traumatic stress and motivates young patients to achieve their goals.
Come, Sit, Listen and Stay Awhile
Galaxy was a recent guest on Children’s Hospital Colorado’s Charting Pediatrics podcast along with fellow dogtor, Halo. Learn about the life of a medical dog handler, the training that goes into preparing these comforting canines and the benefits their little patients receive from their care.
Don’t worry. Galaxy’s life isn’t all work and no play. The special employee gets a break two to three times per day at the hospital’s dog park, where patients can watch via a live webcam.
If patients are unable to see the real Galaxy for any reason, they have the opportunity to be pen pals with him or another facility dog and can even visit the Patricia Crown Family T(w)een Zone to play with the dogs via virtual reality (VR). Through VR, they can feed Galaxy treats, take him on a walk or throw him a ball.
The T(w)een Zone is also home to the first pediatric Panda Cares Center of Hope Makerspace that supports Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) learning through technology. The patients are able to record podcasts or songs and can use the 3D printers to create their own designs.
The tour attendees experienced VR that helps reduce a patient’s anxiety before going into surgery and another that helps patients with their physical therapy.
All of the therapeutic interventions used have been proven to reduce pain, improve ambulation, eliminate the need for sedation, develop resilience and improve clinical outcomes for patients.