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Every day Emily Reimer has been in the hospital was another day she went without seeing her beloved dog — making her rare illness all the more difficult to bear.
That was until earlier this month, when she got to reunite with Casper, her fluffy Havanese, plus her grandparents’ black poodle, Thor, thanks to a program at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, where the 19-year-old transferred to in May.
“I’ve been waiting to see a smile like that for a long time,” her mother, Amy Reimer, told TODAY, speaking in between tears.
Reimer has Diamond-Blackfan anemia, a rare blood disorder, and she’s been a hospital inpatient for more than a year.
“She loves animals; she always has,” her mom continued. “She would always ask for videos or we would Facetime the dogs — whatever we could to keep her in touch with the animals. That’s really been the hardest.”
Reimer called Emily, the eldest of three daughters, a “homebody,” and said the most difficult part of her treatment has been being away from the pets and family she missed so much.
“So for them to be able to come here, it was like having a little piece of home come to us,” she said.
Emily was diagnosed with DBA, which is characterized by a lack of red blood cells, when she was 9 months old, and was on steroids until she was 13. She underwent regular blood transfusions and eventually a bone marrow transplant, but complications and infections brought her back to the hospital last year, and she’s been an inpatient ever since. She’s currently on a ventilator.
“She keeps getting up and fighting every day and does it with a lot of grace and humor,” Reimer, whose family lives in Nixa, Missouri, about a 3 1/2-hour drive from St. Louis, said. “It’s pretty amazing to me that she’s as resilient as she is.”
“She takes it one day at a time and we always find our new normal — that’s what we call it,” she added.
The visit with Casper and Thor took place at the hospital’s Purina Family Pet Center, which gives patients the opportunity to visit pets without leaving the safety of the hospital. Reimer says that despite her daughter’s positive attitude, she “gets down,” but seeing the dogs lifted her spirits.
“It breathed new life into her and gave her the motivation to get home,” she said. “It doesn’t seem so far away now.”