Helping patients one ride at a time

A patient petting Tobiano during the therapy session at the Perak Palliative Care Society premises. — Photos: RONNIE CHIN/The Star

THE faces of the terminally ill patients lit up immediately the moment Palomo and Tobiano entered the Perak Palliative Care Society premises in Ipoh.

Palomo, seven, and Tobiano, four, are two very charming and beautiful female horses from the BP Polo Club.

They were part of the animal therapy for about 10 patients from the Raja Permaisuri Bainun Hospital’s Palliative Care Unit and the society.

The society’s volunteer coordinator Cheong Sau Yen said the event was organised by the unit in collaboration with the society.

She said the horses were brought into the premises of the society for the first time as a form of therapy for the patients.

“For some patients, it is impossible to go to the horse farm some 5km away due to mobility issues, so the horses came here to ‘meet’ the patients.

“At our society, we refer to our patients as clients, and we have nurses visiting them at their homes as part of our pain management therapy,” she added.

One of the patients from the unit, Nor Zamin Said, 59, a retired nurse, said she liked animals very much.

“I have about 10 cats at home, and I talk and pet them daily. So when I got a chance to pat and ride on a horse, it was a great opportunity.

“I like anything to do with animals, and I watch the National Geographic channel often,” said Nor Zamin, who was diagnosed with lung cancer last year.

Breast cancer patient Tham Saw Wau, 45, said she was diagnosed in 2012.

She said this was her first time attending such an event.

“I am extremely happy that I got a chance to sit on a horse. Such events must continue, as it definitely brightens our day,” she added.

Zainal Abidin Shariff, 82, who suffers from chronic lung disease, said during his younger days, he owned four horses, but never got to ride on any of them.

“My horses died some 30 years ago. I am happy I got a chance to sit on one of the horses today,” he said, adding that he was diagnosed with his illness three years ago.

The unit’s consultant Dr Yeat Choi Ling said 60% of their patients were cancer patients, while another 40% were diagnosed with advanced lung, liver and heart diseases, among others.

“Their survival and symptoms are similar to cancer patients, and as such, they are admitted to the unit,” she added.

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