When you are feeling under the weather, sometimes a dog can offer the best comfort. 7Everyday Hero Karen Neiswanger understands. Before retirement, she worked as intensive care unit nurse.
Neiswanger is a regular at Saint Anthony Hospital in Lakewood. And always by her side is her rescue dog Sunny. Together, they visit patients and staff. Neiswanger's nurse's training, and Sunny's gentle spirit helps patients relax.
"An animal can help soothe them so much, so I think it's wonderful," said Marilyn, a patient.
"It is like magic, what happens," said Neiswanger.
Neiswanger would know. She spent 31 years as a nurse at Saint A's.
"When I was an ICU nurse I personally witnessed a patient's blood pressure go down," said Neiswanger.
That is why Neiswanger volunteers to lead the dog therapy program at Saint Anthony. She has seen firsthand the emotional and even medical benefits.
(One time) "A dog just flew into the room and up on the bed and he was crying and I was crying and his heart rate just went boom, boom, boom like that," said Neiswanger as she motioned downward with her hand.
Neiswanger said a dog visit in the hospital can bring patients a sense of peace that few humans can provide.
"People have asked us to come in and sit at a bedside when people are dying. I really believe in it strongly," said Neiswanger.
When Sunny and Neiswanger visit, they make a difference for patients, staff, and fellow volunteers.
"Karen inspires me because of her nurse's heart," said Karen Stalmann.
"They give you a certain comfort. You know? The softness and the warmth," said Lorraine, a patient.
"Her favorite phrase which she says is: 'I think we did some good today.' It is always about other people. It is always about loving people," added Stalmann.