Lucky young patients trade doctors for dolphins - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Lucky young patients trade doctors for dolphins

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SAN DIEGO (NEWS 8) — On Monday, some patients from Rady Children's Hospital had the chance to take a dive with some dolphins at SeaWorld.  

Once a year, hospital staff choose a group of patients for the Dolphin Interaction Program – also known as DIP. 

A group of seven patients arrived Monday and got to experience close encounters with the sea mammals.  

"I really like how dolphins jump and I just got to see like a lot of dolphins and I was really, really happy," said 10-year-old Anastasie Abboud.  

Anastasie has been through a lot over the years; when she was 4 years old a large statue fell on her, crushing her skull and she was not expected to survive.  

She is now deaf in one ear and suffers from other issues, but her father says seeing how far she's come in astonishing – and seeing her happy means everything to him.  

"I could see the expression on her face while she was doing things [today,]" said Nicholas Abboud. "It was like pure joy, pure excitement. I couldn't take enough photos." 

Each child who attended the program Monday has been through some sort of trauma and received treatment at Rady Children's. 

14-year-old Juliana Abraham is in the midst of her battle - she was diagnosed with a brain tumor just two years ago. 

For her, this experience at Seaworld has brought some much-needed joy. 

"It makes you forget what's going on and it just brings you into playful childness that you have in your heart and in your mind," Juliana said. "It gives you a giddy feeling, it's nice." 

A former trainer came up with the idea to pair patients with dolphins in 2007 after she was diagnosed with cancer. 

Current trainer Jorge Villa can relate. 

He spent time at Rady Children's after being diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 12. 

"It allows these kids to forget about whatever is going on in their life, and that's part of the beauty of working with animals and sharing what we do with kids," said Jorge.  

For children to participate, they must be at least 10 years old and have a doctor's ok.      

And it's not just local children who get the experience. Next month, SeaWorld will host kids from the Los Angeles Children's Hospital. 

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