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Therapy seal helps ICU patients at Nebraska Medicine

Posted at 6:58 PM, Aug 08, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-08 19:58:02-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — 8-year-old Juan Lozano is rebuilding his strength after getting a liver, pancreases, and bowel transplant last week.

Sara Kinsella's assistant, Paro, makes Juan's occupational therapy at Nebraska Medicine more fun. Juan practices deep breathing techniques and yoga with Paro.

Paro is a robotic seal that has been used a lot with patients who have dementia. UNMC is studying how the robotic seal can help more patients.

“I got to see real life animals in the ICU do their work and it was amazing,” Breanna Hetland, UNMC Assistant Professor and Critical Care Nurse Scientist said. “But there are some logistical challenges with bringing a live animal into the ICU setting. It’s tough to move them around the lines and the tubes and it’s also an increased infection risk because of the severity of the condition these patients have.”

So far, Paro has worked patients in Nebraska Medicine’s ICU.

“I think this really has the potential to enhance the therapy session,” Hetland said. “It’s something new, something different, it can help with them just being motivated.”

Throughout the morning, Paro's hundreds of sensors, react to what Juan is doing such as breathing deeply with him and following a ball as he stretches.

Sabrina, Juan’s mother, said he acts like a new kids when Paro is around. The seal makes him excited to sit up and get out of bed, tasks that we painful and difficult just a few days ago.

“Because I thought it would be super energize for me, like real super powers,” Juan said.

Paro will share her super powers with Juan for seven sessions, before she is thoroughly cleaned and introduced to the next patient.

“His fur actually has been mixed with a silver product so his hair itself is antimicrobial which is why it’s so helpful to use in a setting like this at a hospital,” Hetland said.