Monday, April 25, 2011 12:05 PM

Gentle giant delights Shaela

By Katie Zenovich, Executive Director of Community Medical Foundation

Last Saturday night, it was my privilege to have orchestrated a special pre-Easter surprise for Shaela Warkentin, the 15-year old Bullard High School student who was involved in a traumatic car accident and after a month and a half is still in our Trauma Center.  I am writing to share with you what happened.  You may be aware of Shaela, since there has been a considerable amount of coverage on her story and an outpouring community of support for her and her family.

Our friend and donor-investor, Jim Maxwell, (of Agriland Farming Company, Inc.) and his employees are currently raising money for Shaela to help with medical bills.  Jim is also the owner of two champion show dogs - Great Danes.  These dogs work intermittently at Children’s Hospital visiting patients.

Jim and I worked for weeks on an idea to arrange a visit to Shaela by the dogs and for various reasons associated with her condition, we were unable to get them in… until Saturday night before Easter.

I arranged for Jim to bring “Max” a 176 lb beautiful gentle giant that resembles Marmaduke to Community Regional.  We were given special permission to bring him into the hospital and into the ICU.  What happened next was nothing short of magical.

We visited several teens in the pediatric unit.  Smiles, oohs and awes erupted at every stop.  For moments their pain and ailments were forgotten as they cuddled this soft, sweet dog the size of a horse.
Staff, visitors and others swarmed the hallways, gawked and patted the (enormous) puppy as we walked through the Medical Center.

We entered the Trauma ICU and the unexpected impact upon our special hard-working staff was remarkable.  The stress release was palpable as they immediately loved the dog with hugs and smooches. There were two unfortunate patient outcomes just before we showed up and two of our staff cried and said that we could not have picked a better day.

When we surprised Shaela, she had family and many friends at her bedside.  Max entered and promptly laid his gigantic head on Shaela’s chest.  She giggled and shrieked about how big and amazing he was.  She stroked his face, ears and neck as he cuddled with her and nuzzled her face and neck.

Shaela was quick witted, perky, funny and thrilled to have Max, Jim and I visit.  She didn’t want him to leave.
For the hour we visited, Shaela and her family beamed with smiles and marveled over the dog.  Everyone in the room had suffered a trauma with Shaela and have been going through the healing process.  It was fantastic to give them an opportunity to focus on something else.

Channel 30 captured some of it and aired it that night and several times on Easter.

The opportunity to put Community in front of this sensational life-saving story and get the message out that Community Regional is where adults and children go when critically injured was terrific.  Soon Shaela will transfer to Children’s Hospital and continue her recovery.  But, without the amazing physicians, staff and facilities within the Level 1 Trauma Center at Community Regional, this may never have been possible.

It was awesome to share the magic with the region’s viewers.  In case you missed it, there was an ABC 30 story about that detailed our visit.  Here's the link:

Many thanks to Jim Maxwell, to Annette, ICU Supervisor, and our division team members Michael Bailey, Cathy Hendrickson, Mary Lisa Russell and Lynn Mackey.