Patient Testimonial: The Lewis Family

Editors Note: Diane Lewis and her family first heard about UMMC's Patient's Personal Pet Visitation Program when her father, Dan Lewis, was hospitalized at the Medical Center in April 2010. Knowing how much her father loved seeing her dog Cali, Diane began searching for a way to bring Cali to the Medical Center to visit him. A nurse at the Medical Center informed her about the Patient's Personal Pet Visitation Program, managed by Reverend Susan Roy, the director of the Department of Pastoral Care Services at UMMC. Diane immediately contacted Reverend Roy to find out more information. Read her story below.

My name is Diane Lewis and my dog's name is Cali. Each week during the time my father Dan Lewis was hospitalized at the University of Maryland Medical Center, my mother Rosalie, my brother Jeffrey and I would arrange to bring Cali to visit him through the Patient's Personal Pet Visitation Program.

My family and I started coming to UMMC in April 2010, after my father was transferred from another facility after having been sick for a considerable time. My family and I were joking about how we could see Cali coming to visit him in the hospital and how good that would be for him. At the time, we were just joking about it; we didn't realize that we'd actually be able to do it!

I started talking to the nurses and asking if I could bring Cali to the Medical Center as a therapy dog, because I really wanted her to come and see my father. I was willing to go through whatever steps were necessary to have her certified as a therapy dog. It was then that we heard about the Patient's Personal Pet Visitation Program through one of the nurses who told us how we could get information about the program through the Medical Center's Department of Pastoral Care Services.

I remember when we first told my father that we were going to bring Cali to visit him in the hospital, he didn't believe us. His eyes got really wide and he just got so excited because he couldn't believe that the dog would be able to come to the hospital. It was a great joy to him.

The first thing we did was visit the vet's office. We had to get all of Cali's shots updated. Once the shots were taken care of, we talked with Reverend Roy, the director of the Department of Pastoral Care Services, and arranged for Cali to come in once a week on a Saturday afternoon.

I was instructed to give Cali a bath 24 hours before the time of her visit and to feed her at least two hours before her visit so there was less of a possibility for accidents. I was also instructed to dress her in a T-shirt to cut down on pet dander and create a more hygienic environment for other patients.

I remember Cali would come in and visit with my dad, and he was always so glad to see her. Sometimes he wasn't conscious enough to acknowledge her presence, but when he was awake his eyes would widen and I know it always made him feel better. Sometimes, we would put her up right by the bed so he could put his hand on her. It was very touching and I know it meant a lot to my dad, especially because he was at the Medical Center for so long.

I think having Cali visit him in the hospital brought a lot of comfort to my father; it brought a lot of comfort to my family because we consider her a part of our family. I would definitely recommend this program to others because it really was a blessing for my family. Cali's a family member, like most dogs are to their humans and it just meant a lot to us that all of our family members could see him while he was sick.