The staff at Bayhealth Inpatient Rehabilitation Center, Milford Memorial, have assisted thousands of people to get back on their feet, literally.
Since late February, they’ve had the opportunity to care for a patient of a different sort: Galaxy, a 4-year-old black lab. Galaxy, a guide dog, is staying at the hospital with William McCafferty, of Georgetown.
McCafferty, who is legally blind, suffered a stroke on February 21, 2013. After spending four days at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital, he moved to Milford’s Inpatient Rehab Center, accompanied by Galaxy.
Galaxy has a make-shift bed complete with pillows and a couple of toys in the corner of McCafferty’s room.
His care instructions are carefully detailed next to McCafferty’s plan of care on the white board. After all, Galaxy needs to be fed, walked and taken outside the hospital for bathroom breaks.
Staff are reminded in writing that it’s inappropriate to pet or talk to Galaxy when he’s in his harness: that’s when he’s on duty. They are not allowed to play with him because he’s got a job to do.
Galaxy is permitted to climb up on the corner of McCafferty’s bed, but his movement is restricted to the room by the length of his leash.
Galaxy has been part of McCafferty’s life since June 8, 2011.
“He’s my fourth seeing eye dog. The first passed away, the second didn’t work out and retired, and the third retired early. He’s my partner,” he said. “He’s a very easy dog to work with. He’s a soft dog and responds to soft voice corrections.”
McCafferty explained that his canine set of eyes completed years of rigorous training through Guiding Eyes for the Blind, an internationally-recognized program, in order to be matched with a person who relies upon his skills.
The program starts with puppies, many of which are unable to complete the rigorous training. In order to care for their handlers, the dogs must be deemed reliable guides for a blind person in a wide range of situations, ranging from rural to urban settings.
McCafferty has been totally blind since 1989, but has dealt with vision problems his entire life.
“When I’m hospitalized, we are both admitted to the hospital,” he said.
He praised the staff’s interaction with Galaxy.
“The staff here has been really good with him. It’s been awesome. When the harness is off, he is an everyday dog. He’s very easy going, and he’s fine with other folks,” McCafferty said.
When it’s time to go to therapy or to the dining room, Galaxy goes to work.
“I’m in a wheelchair, and I put him on my left side and he walks beside the chair. He’s a very smart dog,” McCafferty said, noting that he uses hand signals as well as voice commands with Galaxy.
“He’s a source of comfort, and he’s a lot of company. It’s just me and him. He’s well taken care of, and he takes care of me. He is just awesome. He is my left hand. All my dogs have been great.”
McCafferty also praised the staff who regularly come in the room to check on him and on Galaxy.
“My care has been very, very good. Even the food has been delicious. I know they get paid, and it’s their job, but everybody here goes way beyond the measure of the job. They made sure Galaxy was comfortable, and they have been very supportive of him in every way. If I had to rate them on a survey, I would have to give them 10s across the board.”
The Bayhealth Inpatient Rehabilitation Center, Milford Memorial is a recipient of the W. L. (Bill) Gore Award of Excellence for demonstrating high levels of performance excellence.