Assistance dogs at The Queen’s Medical Center help patients heal


In May 2019, 77-year-old Audrey Dutro was diagnosed with cancer.

“I have cancer in my right lung, and it spread close to my heart,” Dutro said.

Doctors told Dutro she had one year to live. Shortly after her diagnosis, she began chemotherapy treatment at The Queen’s Medical Center West Oahu.

However, Audrey Dutro says it’s not the chemotherapy that’s helping her heal, it’s Kula.

“Oh the love came on so strong. Kula just brought peace to my mind. I forgot about my cancer,” she said.

Kula is an assistance dog at The Queen’s Medical Center West Oahu. He is trained to help comfort patients like Audrey Dutro.

Kula’s handler is Lydia Kim who is also a registered nurse. Kim said seeing Dutro’s improvement because of Kula is remarkable.

“Her first visit she had really bad abdominal pain. She was holding two warm packs and she was wincing,” Kim explained about Dutro’s first treatment session. “Kula got in the bed with her and she said, ‘You know, I don’t feel the pain anymore,'” Kim said.

Dutro’s family members notice a big difference as well. Audrey Dutro’s daughter Sandy said her mom constantly talks about Kula, even at home.

“I think people think we have another dog,” Sandy Dutro said.

Susan Murray, the COO of The Queen’s Medical Center West Oahu said Kula is an essential part of healing for a lot of patients.

“We’ve had already such wonderful stories of patients that weren’t going to come to [get] chemo that had PTSD and just really felt jangled by the experience, and then they met Kula and they began looking forward to coming and getting their treatments,” Murray explained.

Audrey Dutro said Kula helps her get through the long and sometimes painful chemotherapy sessions.

“It really does take my mind off from what they’re doing,” Dutro said about Kula.

The Queen’s Medical Center in Honolulu also has two other assistance dogs. Each one helps put a smile on patient’s faces.

Kim said the power of a dog can sometimes be more beneficial than medicine.

“If you love dogs or you love animals, you just know that they make you feel good. Some medicine cannot bring that feeling that an animal brings to you,” Kim said.

Audrey Dutro said she fully believes Kula is the reason she is feeling better, and at peace.

“If it’s ok, I ask for a little bit more time with my family. A little bit more time with my family, and it’s all up to Him. It’s all up to the man above,” Dutro said.

The human touch is always great, but sometimes a simple paw is the perfect prescription.

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