Meet Irma, Bri­tain’s most car­ing an­i­mal.

Perthshire war vet­eran says Irma stayed by him when he was in a coma

The Courier & Advertiser (Angus and The Mearns Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - KIRSTY MCINTOSH km­cin­tosh@the­

A dog gifted to a trau­ma­tised war vet­eran spent months at his hos­pi­tal bed­side as he fought back from the brink of death.

Springer spaniel Irma was the first dog trained by Brave­hound, a char­ity which pro­vides com­pan­ion dogs for ex-ser­vice per­son­nel, and was given to Perthshire man Paul Wilkie in June last year.

Irma has now been named the most car­ing an­i­mal in the UK at the An­i­mal Hero Awards af­ter help­ing Paul back to health.

A self-de­scribed “bro­ken sol­dier” who served in the Falk­lands, Bos­nia and Iraq, Paul suf­fers post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der and wakes in a state of ter­ror on a nightly ba­sis.

The PTSD caused a num­ber of phys­i­cal con­di­tions, in­clud­ing Crohn’s and col­i­tis, which re­sulted in him un­der­go­ing surgery last year.

How­ever the 46-year-old, who spent 22 years in the Royal Engi­neers, de­vel­oped sep­sis and was in a 10-day coma in in­ten­sive care.

So close was he to death that the medic se­ri­ously con­sid­ered switch­ing off his life-sup­port ma­chines.

Through­out his or­deal Irma was by his side, be­com­ing a firm favourite with nurses at Ninewells Hos­pi­tal.

Paul said: “I was in hos­pi­tal for seven months, and Irma was with me for all that time.

“At one point I had 36 hours to live, that’s what they told my chil­dren.

“They were go­ing to turn my ma­chines off. If it wasn’t for the sur­geons I wouldn’t be here now.

“They said if I wasn’t an ex-squad­die I would have died – I’m alive be­cause I was so fit.

“Ninewells were bril­liant – both with the treat­ment they gave me and for let­ting Irma sit on my bed to be there for me. The only time Irma wasn’t with me was when I was in ICU. I have a carer and she stayed with her. “Irma was get­ting vis­its from nurses from other wards – I thought they were com­ing to see me, but it was the dog they wanted to see.”

Paul was re­leased from hos­pi­tal in Novem­ber and now spends his days train­ing and walk­ing Irma, with the pair of­ten joined by Paul’s pet duck North as they make their way round his home­town of Guild­town.

He added: “Irma is a wee cracker. “She’s changed my life. She de­serves the award just for putting up with me.”

She de­serves the award just for putting up with me. PAUL WILKIE

Pic­ture: Mhairi Ed­wards.

Guild­town man Paul Wilkie with dog Irma and the award.

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