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Pet Therapy at Shaare Zedek

11 July 2016

Shaare Zedek Medical Centre has pioneered the use of animal therapy in the treatment of young patients.

In the past year, Shaare Zedek treated close to 800,000 patients, including many young patients.

Shaare Zedek recently opened its Next Generation building which houses the Wilf Children’s Hospital.  Some of the young patients are admitted for extended periods or require ongoing care for congenital illnesses or treatment of serious diseases like blood-borne cancers, respiratory problems or following traumatic injuries.

With so many young patients, Shaare Zedek is always researching ways to alleviate the patient’s medical ailments and the emotional distress that accompanies illness.

There is a fully operational school for young patients within Shaare Zedek.

Sara Shoshani, head of the Lincoln David Abraham Paediatric Educational Institute in Shaare Zedek Medical Centre, says, “There are children here who are very ill and our goal is to provide them with tools to contend with their disease and to give them a positive experience within the hospital. When the child enters our school, it provides them with a supportive educational environment that helps them deal with their hospitalization. ”

The school in Shaare Zedek is a place where children meet other children and can take their minds off their treatment and enjoy a wide array of activities.

Shaare Zedek’s school offers animal therapy, music therapy and art therapy programs as part of its innovative curriculum.

A major feature of this exceptional school is the pet therapy program.

Research has found that pets can directly positively impact the physical and emotional health of a patient.

Chemda Didovski, head of Shaare Zedek’s pet therapy program explains, “We want to keep our patients calm and help them deal with their illness.

The hospital maintains a collection of small animals which includes, hamsters, guinea pigs, rabbits, a parrot and even a lizard. Studies have shown that interactions with animals help children contend with the challenges of medical conditions helps them relax and builds their confidence.

Mr Zvica Ledder made aliyah from Australia nine months ago, following his three children who moved to Israel several years earlier. His son, Dr Oren Ledder is a much loved Paediatric Gastroenterologist at Shaare Zedek Medical Centre. Soon after his arrival in Israel, Zvica began his role as a volunteer in Shaare Zedek’s Animal Therapy Program.

Zvica says, “I wanted to give, and in the end, I am getting more than I give. I love to see the children smile. Earlier, there was a little boy crying. He saw the animals and started playing with the rabbit and the parrot and a smile spread across his face. It was wonderful to watch.”

How wonderful that Shaare Zedek, Jerusalem’s busiest hospital, provides not only the best in medical care, but makes sure to enhance the emotional wellbeing of its youngest and most vulnerable patients.

As one happy patient young patient recently said, “Thank you to all the staff in the pet therapy program, especially those with fur and feathers!”