How it All Began – Part 1

June 7, 2019

Recalling the Memories of How it All Began
– By Kirsten Kuhnert (Co-Founder of CDTC)

Everyone knows the term "time flies", but never before have I realized the truth that lies in it, than now in the light of the 15th anniversary of CDTC. And as I wandered... from the Dolphin Suites Hotel to the therapy center, I started traveling though time. I remember clearly the day when my phone rang at 10.00am o’clock and the display showing a totally unknown country code. The gentlemen on the other end was a stranger, from the other side of the ocean, at 5.00am in the morning, his time. Whoever the person was that gave him the number, did something very good. From that day on, we spoke often, mostly at 5.00am in the morning. And on a nice November day, I made my first step onto the island. Since that day, a lot has happened. “The stranger was Adriaan Schrier, popularly known as “Dutch”, and the vision that he explained to me so many years ago, has become a reality… and much more.”

The Impossible – Part 2

June 7, 2019

Who strives for the impossible has little competition…
– By Kirsten Kuhnert (Co-Founder of CDTC)

It must have been this belief uniting Dutch, Rudy Pizziolo, Rudolf Jaeckle and myself, to join in this adventure that was destined to be called Curaçao Dolphin Therapy and Research Center.

While Dutch was building the basics for us to start as soon as possible, Rudolf was busy with the founding dolphin fathers of CDTC, Nemo and Mateo, and I sat with the medical board of dolphin aid over the therapy concept.

While I took the role of driving the guys crazy, constantly reminding them about all we had to think of, the job descriptions for everyone we would need were created at night. In Düsseldorf the interviews were conducted to scare the living hell out of the candidates.

We only wanted the best-educated, most experienced, motivated professionals with the funniest personalities. As if this mix was easy to find, it was also necessary to find the needle in the haystack, with someone speaking at least fluent Dutch or German and English, who was willing and able to live on an island called Curaçao, somewhere in the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea.

While writing this, I can feel the excitement of the pioneering times again, and I am still in disbelief that the people we wanted, not only existed in real life but were also willing to live on an island they probably didn't have planned to earlier. My children became the guinea pigs for those practicing, they fell in love with the island that they called a second home and made friends for life. The boat as I still call it, you know this impressive landmark on the Sea Aquarium Park property became my home away from home for the longest time, shared with all therapists in training, the interns, and some future trainers.

Dutch had built the additional accommodations in the back of the ship in record time, for all those puzzling around, and I will tell you what happened when we figured that there was no suitable accommodation for our patients on the island back then.

Your Path – Part 3

June 7, 2019

From stones that lay in your path you can build bridges....
– By Kirsten Kuhnert (Co-Founder of CDTC)

…well, the bridge naturally existed already, the one which connected the mainland with "Dutch´s" creation, the Sea Aquarium Island.

A specific handful of people, who were wildly engaged in the creation of a therapy center that the world had never seen before, also existed. In fact, we thought of everything. The tasks were divided, each and every one of us was busy working on theirs, and so the chaos took its course. 🙂

Sleepless nights, endless phone calls, meetings, training, organization, shopping, remodeling. Why remodeling? Because the facilities for CDTC had not been created yet and we opted to relocate the former photo shop of the Sea Aquarium and use its site for the first therapy rooms. So, we opted, and "Dutch" built....

The first important piece that was completed, as I remember, was this beautiful dolphin table, which became the center of the action. It still stands today in the heart of the therapist offices and has witnessed important conversations.

At some point, it must have been January 2004, we realized that we needed to find proper accommodation for those coming for therapy. In Düsseldorf, the first families were in the process of scheduling their therapies, so ironing out this necessity became essential. Luckily, the Royal Sea Aquarium Resort already existed, and we chose it as housing for the first families. That, however, would not be able to serve as a permanent solution. The apartments where beautiful and the location outstanding, but they were not truly barrier free and accessible for our patients with big wheelchairs. We racked our brains to come up with a solution, at least to find a good compromise - under time pressure as always. Time was a luxury, and we never seemed to have enough. And once again it was Dutch who came up with a practical plan. Out of 8 rooms at the Lions Dive Hotel, he made 4 apartments in basically no time. He broke down walls and broadened doors, created a handicapped accessible bathroom in each unit, and relocated the dining room to the terrace. Simply a genius....and certainly only possible in Curaçao.

So, it came to pass that the families lived next to each other and therefore came in close contact with one another. It is said that many cozy evenings were enjoyed in a big group....Piece by piece and literally stone for stone, our attempts to create a special, worry-free, and successful time for our patients progressed.

Vision to Reality – Part 4

June 7, 2019

From a vision to reality….first families were welcomed
– By Kirsten Kuhnert  (Co-Founder of CDTC)

In an office in Düsseldorf, I sat together with Kay Evers to interview those candidates, brave enough to reply to the very demanding job description. And I told all of them, “You will only start working on time. The closing time is in the unknown.” And this is how it was. We started around 7am and due to non-existing logistics and the work load, we were never done 12 hours later. Everyone did everything! Phone, fax, dusting, cleaning fish buckets, disinfected supplies, the trainers trained, and the therapists gave therapy, family talks lasted for hours. The creation of a therapy report could take the most advanced colleagues 4 to 6 weeks, in other words we were practically administrative geniuses. And since somehow, we didn't feel like having any other home but CDTC, it frequently happened that we ordered something to eat and still sat in front of the office after 12 to 14 hours of work to reflect the day. We were just a group of people dedicated and wildly determined to rewrite the rehabilitative story of our patients, despite of a long work day.

The first families who came, gave us the much-needed feedback after weeks of training, were very experienced in Dolphin Assisted Therapy, and so we simulated two periods of regular therapy. One of the fathers said to us on the second day, “This is the best, I have ever seen.” It was a very emotional moment, clearly remembered by those present, and we still work hard to keep it that way.