In honor of Labor Day, BNN salutes the working rabbits of the world!
Born paralyzed from the waist down, Alyna had very few choices for future care. That is, until a therapist at Israel’s ALYN children’s hospital took interest in her case, and offered to help her out with a state-of-the-art brace.
The interesting thing is that Alyna is a rabbit, and her situation has inspired children all around the hospital’s rehabilitation facilities.
Found in a local Israeli shelter, 1-year-old Alyna came to ALYN when she was just three months old. While ALYN has other therapy animals used for patients, staffers knew that little Alyna would probably serve a different purpose in her time at the facility.
“The idea of bringing her in started as more folly than anything else,” Friends of ALYN Hospital executive director Cathy Lanyard said. “But it turned into a challenge. Then she really became part of our animal family.”
Alyna wears an RGO (customized Reciprocating Gait Orthosis) brace, which wraps around her waist and legs, and is what disabled children at ALYN wear.
The RGO is technically designed for humans, but the custom brace has had the same effect on Alyna when she wears it: it allows her to move forward (though not hop) by using her front paws.
“By a system of arm movements and balance, it almost makes the wearer feel like they’re walking,” Lanyard says. “It’s not comfortable, though, and most kids are afraid of it.”
Alyna can move herself around the wards of the ALYN hospital and in doing so demonstrates to hesitant youngsters that recovery can be fun.
Since Alyna’s arrival at ALYN, the kids “have been fascinated,” says Lanyard. “They can put the brace on the rabbit, and see the difference in movement when she’s in or out of it,” she explains. “In turn, it takes away their fear, and makes it a lot of fun. Instead of the discomfort, they feel the mobility.”
Though Alyna is the only disabled animal at ALYN — the other therapy animals include other rabbits, guinea pigs, turtles and birds— Lanyard says the hospital staff would be open to adopting another disabled animal in the future, based on their success with the lovable rabbit. “It’s amazing to watch,” she says. “Sometimes just the simplest innovation makes an enormous difference.”
For more information contact
American Friends of ALYN Hospital, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.alynhopsital.org