June 15, 2024

Vitavo Yage

Best Health Creates a Happy Life

N.Y. Hospital System Allows Emotional Support Dogs to Visit Owners After They Give Birth: ‘A No-Brainer’ (Exclusive)

5 min read

Northwell Health hospitals in New York permit emotional support animals to visit their owners in its postpartum units

<p>Natalie Reyes Bursky</p> Magita the emotional support dog with her baby brother<p>Natalie Reyes Bursky</p> Magita the emotional support dog with her baby brother

Natalie Reyes Bursky

Magita the emotional support dog with her baby brother

Some hospitals in New York are helping patients’ dogs be present for one of the most important moments in their owners’ lives.

The hospitals of Northwell Health, the largest health system in New York, allow pregnant patients to bring their emotional support canines to the postpartum unit for support.

Lisa Schavrein, the nurse navigator in OBGYN at Northwell’s Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, helps arrange these visits.

“We have a 40-week lead time before our patients walk through the door,” Schavrein tells PEOPLE of the pregnant people she assists. “So there should be nothing about you that we’re not prepared for. Anything that requires an extra level of care comes through me.”

For pregnant patients with anxiety and depression, this means offering them an opportunity to bring their emotional support animal to the hospital after they give birth.

“Having a baby at baseline causes anxiety with or without a pre-existing condition, so if you use an emotional support animal to calm you and want them to help, to me, it’s a no-brainer,” Schavrein says.

Related: Emotional Support Dog Missing for 2 Years Reunited with Owner: ‘I Kind of Lost Hope After a While’

There are a few rules patients must follow if they are interested in bringing their emotional support animal to Lenox Hill while they are recovering after giving birth. Patients must provide Schavrein with their pet’s emotional animal support paperwork ahead of their due date so the nurse navigator can review it and make the necessary preparations, which mainly involves notifying the hospital’s staff and security team ahead of time so they are prepared for when the animal arrives.

Additionally, the emotional support animal must be hypoallergenic to avoid disrupting other patients. A person other than the one giving birth must be present with the dog during their stay at the hospital, so there is someone to take the animal out for bathroom breaks.

For the safety of all, emotional support animals are not allowed in the hospital’s labor and delivery area. Instead, they can visit their owners in their room in the postpartum or antepartum unit.

“It’s a huge comfort to them,” Schavrein says of emotional support animals.

“Some people don’t even end up having their animals come. They are just comforted to know that they can bring their emotional support animal if they need it,” she adds.

<p>Natalie Reyes Bursky</p> Magita the dog with Ryan Bursky (left) and Natalie Reyes Bursky<p>Natalie Reyes Bursky</p> Magita the dog with Ryan Bursky (left) and Natalie Reyes Bursky

Natalie Reyes Bursky

Magita the dog with Ryan Bursky (left) and Natalie Reyes Bursky

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Natalie Reyes Bursky and her husband, Ryan Burksy, know the comfort this option provides firsthand. Natalie, a lawyer who works for a nonprofit that focuses on community justice, gave birth at Lenox Hill Hospital on April 30, 2023, and had her emotional support animal, Magita, the “super mutt,” join her at the hospital shortly after delivery.

Magita and Natalie were inseparable long before she was pregnant or married. Natalie rescued the dog in Chile in 2011 when the pup was just a few weeks old. In 2014, Magita became Natalie’s emotional support dog.

“I’ve personally struggled with depression and anxiety for years; Magita’s calm demeanor brings me stability in an otherwise sometimes chaotic life. And that is one of the reasons that I bring her almost everywhere with me,” Natalie says of choosing to make Magita an emotional support animal.

“An emotional support animal is such a beautiful thing that I want to destigmatize,” she adds.

So when Natalie and Ryan learned Magita could join them in Lenox Hill Hospital’s postpartum unit following their child’s birth, they eagerly arranged the dog’s visit ahead of time with Schavrein.

The couple felt confident that Magita would bring her signature stability and comfort to the post-birth chaos, especially since the canine was trained to be a hospital therapy dog. Still, they couldn’t predict how vital the dog’s love would be.

<p>Natalie Reyes Bursky</p> Magita the emotional support dog<p>Natalie Reyes Bursky</p> Magita the emotional support dog

Natalie Reyes Bursky

Magita the emotional support dog

Related: Penn. Shelter Searching for Homes for 10 Working Dogs Who Endured Neglect After Retirement

Natalie’s labor came on “very suddenly,” she says, forcing her to abandon the careful planning and prep work she and Ryan had done.

“I gave birth in 30 minutes. It was a Sunday, and if it had been a Monday, I would’ve given birth in the car,” Natalie recalls about the overwhelming ride through New York City to the hospital.

The stress of the sudden, intense labor was “a painful and traumatic experience” for Natalie that was further exacerbated when her new baby boy was taken to the NICU shortly after his birth.

“He didn’t have enough oxygen in his lungs, and he was put on me for a split second. He was blue and then taken right away to be worked on. This was like nothing in my birth plan. I wanted a quiet, darkened room with music and my baby on me for the first hour. None of that came true. He was immediately taken away to be worked on and then taken to the NICU for several days,” Natalie says.

Magita was a welcomed friend and source of ease when she arrived in Natalie’s postpartum room shortly after her son’s birth.

“I didn’t even have my baby at that point. He was in the NICU. I couldn’t move or get up, but my dog was there, and she provided comfort,” Natalie says.

“It was incredible. She got to lay on a blanket right next to me,” she adds.

Ryan felt the calmness that Magita brought with her, too.

<p>Natalie Reyes Bursky</p> Magita the dog<p>Natalie Reyes Bursky</p> Magita the dog

Natalie Reyes Bursky

Magita the dog

“Having the dog there provided a sense of normalcy and comfort that you want in this crazy foreign place where someone is poking you every two hours,” he says.

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Magita’s time at the hospital also gave her a head start on getting to know her baby brother.

“We would bring the baby’s hats and blankets that had his smell and put them on Magita’s blanket so she could sleep with his smell. So when they first met, it wasn’t a big shock. She was very comfortable,” Ryan says, adding, “It was really incredible. Just how she bonded with him, and now they’re best buds.”

Magita’s ability to bring serenity and joy during a traumatic time has left a lasting impression on Natalie and Ryan. The couple hopes that emotional support animal owners planning to welcome a baby consider a birthing option that allows their emotional support animal to be present shortly after delivery.

“I would recommend this for somebody who has struggled with their mental health, especially as it’s becoming less stigmatized to talk openly about mental health. It meant the world to me to be able to have Magita there,” Natalie says.

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