Chilton Hospital Patient and Service Dog Pioneer Better Treatment for Others
Judith Wright of Bloomingdale, NJ, suffers from Grand Mal Seizure Disorder. Her service dog, Connor, is always “on duty” and at her side, 24 hours a day.
When Wright has a seizure, she becomes unconscious, has convulsions and suffers muscle rigidity. The eight-year-old Irish Setter stands up on his handler and lowers her to the ground, rolling Wright over to protect her head from injury. Amazingly, he is able to warn her up to three hours before she has a seizure.
“His job is to alert me and take care of me,” Wright said. “Without him, I would not be mobile. I wouldn’t be able to shop, ride my horses or be safe anywhere.”
One day when Wright was taking care of her horses at a New Jersey stable, Connor alerted her of an oncoming seizure. Connor went to work, protecting her during the multiple grand mal seizures, the physical equivalent of her body having run several marathons in a row. Wright was actively seizing and went into cardiac arrest, and the paramedic unit from Chilton promptly treated her and put her into the ambulance. However, no one was quite sure what to do with her service dog.
He was eventually allowed to ride with Wright on the way to the hospital. She received immediate care in Chilton’s Emergency Department with her service dog by her side.
Although the American with Disabilities Act and state laws protect the rights of service dogs and their handlers, most people and businesses aren’t aware of daily and emergency protocol. “Many police and health departments aren’t formally trained,” reported Wright. “So, how can they behave appropriately or allow access? Many people don’t understand because I appear fine.”
A few days after the initial hospital stay, Wright contacted Jacqueline P. McNally, director of Chilton’s Mobile Intensive Care Unit, and asked her to review the statute that addresses the requirement that service dogs must accompany their handlers. The purpose was to educate Chilton staff and enhance personalized care for future patients with similar situations.
“The paramedics were amazed that Connor knew exactly what was expected of him,” McNally said. “To say he is an extraordinary dog is an understatement. Connor knew exactly what to do and when to do it. He remained at Judith's side throughout her treatment in the Emergency Department. All the while turning heads in utter amazement at his commitment to his job and his compassion for Judith.”
Wright continues to make trips to Chilton for her medical care, but the staff has learned exactly what to do with Connor when the pair arrives. “Connor knows when to help and when to step aside without direction to allow health care personnel to do their jobs,” she explained. “Chilton Hospital is incredible. It went from limited knowledge to heightened knowledge and beyond what I could hope for. It is wonderful not to think about anything but my medical care. Am I lucky? You bet.”
Connor’s six years of devotion to Wright has earned him a Certificate of Merit from the Animal Hall of Fame in Hillsborough, NJ, and his membership in the The Bright and Beautiful Therapy Dogs was recently reactivated after an attack by a dog deemed “dangerous” in Warwick, NY.
Chilton Hospital is a fully accredited, 260-bed, acute-care, community hospital. It is a four-time recipient of the HealthGrades Specialty Excellence Award in Stroke, and Five-Star Rated for Stroke Care, the highest possible, for six years in a row. It is also Five-Star Rated for Joint Replacement and Total Knee Replacement for 2012. Chilton’s many services include minimally invasive and robot-assisted surgery, a state-of-the-art Emergency Department, a Pain Management center, the Sleep Health Institute, the Comprehensive Wound Healing/Hyperbaric Center, the Chilton Cancer Center, the Mother Baby Center, an American Diabetes Association-recognized diabetes education program and a weight loss surgery program. Chilton has recently embarked on a $24 million modernization project, which includes the Cardiovascular Interventional Lab, the Breast Center and the Total Joint Center. The hospital is located at 97 West Parkway in Pompton Plains, NJ 07444. For more information about Chilton's facilities and services, or to find a doctor by name, specialty, or location, please visit www.chiltonhealth.org or call 1-888-CHILTON.