Patients at Regional Cancer Center in Johnson City now greeted by therapy dogs

JOHNSON CITY, TN (WJHL) – The Regional Cancer Center in Johnson City is now offering something new to help patients going through treatment.

Patients are now greeted by therapy dogs.

One of those patients, Sarah Jones, is a third grade teacher in Tazewell County, Virginia.

“I love my classroom,” Jones said. “That’s where my heart is, is with my classroom.”

About six years ago, doctors gave her a shocking diagnosis.

“This is my third diagnosis with ewing sarcoma,” she explained.

Sarah beat the cancer, but it came back. Now she spends a majority of her time at the Regional Cancer Center at Johnson City Medical Center.

“I get two hours of hydration and then two hours of chemo, and then two hours of hydration. So I’m here just about all day for five days in a row. And then I have two weeks off and then we do it again,” she said.

But now there’s a new therapy dog program at the center that makes time pass a little quicker for Sarah and other patients.

Nurse manager Zilipah Cruz said this program seems to lift patients spirits.

“Pet therapy, it brings a calming factor with it and a distraction, other than what’s going on,” Cruz explained.

Willie is on of two therapy dogs at the center.

His owner, Kristy Jones, volunteers her time to bring Willie to the hospital once a week.

“We come and visit the patients. We stay for about an hour, hour and a half,” she said.

“The pain might still be there, you still have cancer, but distractions,” Cruz said. “You know, we talk about music distractions and all other types of distractions and something other than a pain pill or anything to just distract them from what’s going on.”

Sarah says having the dogs come by makes her days at the center better.

“It’s just soothing. It’s soothing. Because sometimes you feel sick and sometimes you feel sleepy and sometimes you’re just there. But I don’t know, it’s just something about loving on an animal that takes your mind off of all of that and just relaxes you,” Sarah said.

Mountain States Health Alliance is looking for more volunteers like Willie and his owner Kristy.

If you would like more information, click here.

Copyright 2017 WJHL. All rights reserved.

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