Contacts: Tracy Ann Raef, Veterinary Communications, 515-294-4602
Being hospitalized can be frightening, especially for a child. In the spirit of the season, veterinary students from Iowa State University distributed stuffed animals to young patients in the pediatric unit at Mercy Children’s Hospital & Clinics in Des Moines, on Friday, Dec. 20.
The stuffed golden retrievers are part of a Josh kit that includes a book “I’ll be okay.” The book is about Josh, a golden retriever, who goes to the veterinary hospital for surgery. The stuffed animal keeps young patients company during the stay and provides a “friendly distraction” during hospital procedures.
“The ‘Josh’ kits will be a great learning tool for our patients who require surgery,” said Jan Myers, Unit Director of the Pediatric Unit and Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Mercy Children’s Hospital & Clinics. “Mercy Children’s Hospital & Clinics treats many children each year who require heart, craniofacial, brain and other types of surgeries. We appreciate Dr. Williams and the Iowa State veterinary medicine students sharing this wonderful learning tool with our young patients.”
“The human-animal bond even with a stuffed animal has a remarkable affect on kids,” said third-year veterinary student Joe Darrington who oversees the Josh Project at the veterinary school. “The Josh kit sends a great message to the kids, and can really lift their spirits.”
Dr. Bill Williams, representing the Iowa Veterinary Medical Association, joined the students to help deliver the kits. As a private practitioner, Williams sees first-hand the connection that people have with animals, and the value of pets in our lives. A champion of the Josh Project, he helps raise funds when he participates each year in RAGBRAI (Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa).
“This is an incredible program that allows the veterinary community to put our oath into action somewhere other than work or school and bring comfort to kids as well,” Williams said. “I hope to continue taking Josh ‘on the road’ in years to come so he can continue his work with the help of students like those who are here today.”
The ISU veterinary student group plans to continue raising funds for the project so additional kits can be distributed to young patients in Iowa.
The Josh Project is a national effort by veterinary students and veterinarians. ISU alumnus Randy Lange (’75) established the project in 1994 to help his then eight-year-old daughter for a tonsillectomy after finding a lack of information explaining hospitalization to youngsters. Proceeds from the project go to the Children’s Miracle Network.