A new program in Waukesha, Wisconsin gets recovering cardiac patients exercising again – an important part of recovery – by helping out the area’s homeless furry friends. The program, known as Cardiac Friends, was developed by the Humane Animal Welfare Society (HAWS) of Waukesha County in conjunction with ProHealth Care (PHC).
Getting cardiac patients active again can be a challenge, but it’s a crucial part of the recovery process. The idea is to get people up and exercising as quickly as they can after a heart procedure.
Patients who are in cardiac rehabilitation at Waukesha Memorial Hospital (WMH) essentially become volunteers at HAWS, and take dogs who are housed at the shelter out for walks. Susan Kidder, who founded the program, came up with the idea as a way to develop the interaction between patients and local shelter dogs. In the HAWS press release, Kidder says that “[w]alking your best friend is one of the best exercises - and must be done in any weather, several times a day.”
Volunteer coordinator of HAWS, Kim Kalczynski, says the cardiac volunteers are motivated and good with the dogs. They also love what they do.
Getting cardiac patients active again can be a challenge, but it’s a crucial part of the recovery process. The idea is to get people up and exercising as quickly as they can after a heart procedure. But the exercise should be OK'd by their doctor.
Will the program spread to other areas? With luck, yes. HAWS has already had inquiries from shelters in two other states, and hopefully more will get on board. Jennifer Ehrhardt, a clinical exercise physiologist at WMH is scheduled to give a talk about the program at a national healthcare conference later in the year.
Kidder summed up the program’s dual aim by underlining how much it does for both the patients and the dogs they are walking: "It's about helping. It's about being needed. It's about making a difference.”