A therapy dog from Baltimore, Maryland, is at the forefront of the city’s volunteering efforts to support hospital staff in light of the coronavirus outbreak.
Loki, a 2-year-old Rottweiler and her owner, Caroline Benzel, a medical student enrolled at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, have collected over 4,500 “Hero Healing Kits”, which have been distributed across four hospitals in Baltimore.
The gift bundles feature items from body powder and hypoallergenic lotion, to coffee mix and Vaseline, which are being donated to the intensive care workers on the frontline in the battle against COVID-19.
The initiative began as a scheme to provide remote dog therapy sessions for patients tackling the virus, after a moratorium was passed which prohibited face-to-face animal therapy indefinitely.
The digital drop-ins hosted by Benzel and Loki via FaceTime serve as a welcome relief for coronavirus convalescents restricted to hospital wards.
“The staff and patients have truly enjoyed seeing something different since, at least at our hospital, all visitations have been halted. A simple conversation can completely change the outlook of a patient,” Benzel wrote on “Dogtor Loki’s” Instagram page, which has amassed over 8,000 followers.
As well as boosting the morale of patients and staff, while conducting such virtual visitations, Benzel noticed the adverse reaction of healthcare and social workers to personal protective equipment (PPE).
“Everyone was wearing PPE 24/7 and because of that, they were getting rashes and irritation from wearing masks,” Benzel told WJLA.
This prompted Benzel to compile an Amazon Wish List of essential supplies, the provision of which aims to alleviate the strain on key workers suffering with skin damage.
The project has gained national media coverage and served as the catalyst for similar giveaway schemes in over eight states including North Carolina, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
“This was the dream, and it is coming to fruition: not only to help first responders, but to inspire others to do the same in their counties and states for their respective hospitals,” Benzel said in an online post.
Benzel felt inclined to rally around the Baltimore medical community and express her gratitude after employees helped to fundraise the expenses of ACL surgery Loki underwent recently as a result of a broken paw.
“I wanted to do what I could to return the favour and show them how much I care about them and the UMMC [University of Maryland Medical Center] system,” Benzel stated.
Through reciprocating an act of great compassion, the duo’s charitable pursuit has managed to raise both funds and spirits—a benevolent endeavour which has spread across both state and national borders.
The virtuous circle of events that preceded the launch of the Hero Healing Kits, and the snowball effect of their overwhelmingly positive reception is a powerful reminder of the importance of paying it forward.
To get involved in the Hero Healing Kit campaign, click here.