These donated toy Hummers are incredible, don’t you think? I just love this Star Bulletin photo from Cindy Ellen Russell of Tucker with Kassian Neal at the Kapiolani Medical Center.
Nine-year-old Kassian Neal raced a 4-foot-long plastic Hummer down the pediatric floor of Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children as if he were in the Indianapolis 500.
Ahead was 8-year-old Ryder Lum, who swerved his battery-operated mini Hummer, leaving nurses and parents cheering.
Kapiolani Medical Center currently serves 76 children as in- and outpatients.
Kassian, diagnosed in October with osteogenic sarcoma, a bone cancer, had his left leg amputated. Lum, diagnosed with a brain tumor, just finished his fourth treatment for chemotherapy yesterday.
“This is a scary place to be. … if we can help minimize that anxiety or fear of our children, then we want to do that,” Smith said.
As the two boys took the wheels of the Hummers again, a beaming Pflueger added, “It’s just one of those little things that a lot of people in Hawaii do (to) help our neighbors, to put smiles on their faces.”
I am thrilled that these kids in Honolulu have such a wonderful hospital member.
Tucker was trained by the wonderful folks at Hawaii Canines for Independence, a non-profit organization based on Maui that provides trained therapy dogs and service dogs for the disabled. They are included in our foundation’s huge listing of such organizations all throughout the US and also worldwide.
Tucker can do something that no medical personnel can. He can allow the children to retain some of the fun aspects of just being a kid, lovin’ on a dog, as the realities of cancer treatment often robs children of their innocence and wonder.
His days are filled full of hugs, plenty of petting, and even a few show off tricks. Tucker’s work, training, and handling is paid for through donations. When we followed him, the four legged therapist gave a little canine care to nine year old Kassian Neal. Kassian had to have his leg amputated back in January due to Osteogenic Sarcoma, a type of cancer that often affects the leg and knee. This time Kassian is in the hospital for his cancer treatment.
Kassian says, “He (Tucker) makes me feel good, and he is super energetic, he is playful and sometimes he just lays down in my bed and does nothing.”
He says when he sees Tucker he gets a little tickle inside his heart. “I don’t really get that many visitors and he likes to lick me on the face a lot”, Kassian adds.
Tucker goes to Kapiolani Medical Center to visit the kids about five days a week, he lives with Ellie his handler. But he’s not going anywhere any time soon, he’s on loan to the hospital for about ten years. He works a total of about 4 hours a day with a “paws” or two in between visits.
Kapiolani CEO Martha Smith says, “And then he will nap he comes down to administration to have quiet time and nap in my office and it’s wonderful to have him here”. He also visits nurses and doctors, bringing a little happiness and ease in what can often be a stressful work place.
On Kassian’s last day at the hospital, Ellie gives him a little stuffed animal that looks just like Tucker. So, Kassian can bring a little good memory home with him.
Golden Tucker just celebrated his 2nd birthday at the hospital and it really looked like great fun. Click here to see a wide format video of the festivities. It just warms the heart.