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The coma patient, the street dog in the hospital and a story with a touch of magic …

The Daily Mail, in partnership with eBay and NHS Charities Together, wants you to nominate special people in the healthcare industry who have made a difference in your life or for a loved one. The winner of the prize will receive a holiday of £ 5,000. Enter the coupon below to make a nomination. SHERON BOYLE tells the story of a nominee …

The comatose man in his mid-twenties, who was still in bed, hadn’t moved for weeks. His desperate parents watched over his bed, while the silence in ICU was interrupted only by the beep of machines that kept their son alive.

The tense atmosphere was interrupted by a cheerful ‘hello’ from Helen Moss and the arrival of her Cockapoo, Tilly Rose, who nibbled gently on the mother’s leg.

Helen, a mental health first aid trainer, from Skelmanthorpe in West Yorkshire, introduced herself to the unconscious young man. “I explained that I had brought Tilly, a therapy dog, to see him,” she says. “She put her paws on the waterproof pillow that was on the bed, and the patient’s father took his son’s hand and led it to Tilly’s head and they stroked her.

Nominee Helen Moss, 53, (photo) and her Cockapoo, Tilly Rose, provide patients with comfort in the ICUs of Huddersfield Royal Infirmary and Calderdale Royal Hospital as part of a voluntary program

Nominee Helen Moss, 53, (photo) and her Cockapoo, Tilly Rose, provide patients with comfort in the ICUs of Huddersfield Royal Infirmary and Calderdale Royal Hospital as part of a voluntary program

“I was talking about Tilly and what we did in intensive care. The patient’s eyes flickered – and we held our breath to see if he would move again. Unfortunately, he remained unconscious, so we started talking again, which distracted his parents from the stress of their current life.

A few weeks later, the man regained consciousness and one of the first things he asked about was Tilly. He clearly remembered our visit. It was such a powerful demonstration of what can be achieved with pet therapy. ‘

It was all a day of work for Helen, 53, and Tilly, who visit patients in the ICU wards of Huddersfield Royal Infirmary and Calderdale Royal Hospital as part of a voluntary patient comfort program.

Helen’s daughter, Kelly, then a player at the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London, had witnessed the benefits of taking dogs to wards and encouraged her mother to watch Tilly.

Helen contacted the Pets As Therapy charity and was told that to be considered fit for the task, dogs must be calm and friendly, which is Tilly. Helen underwent hygiene training, departmental protocols, and infection control procedures before the pair was allowed to visit patients.

“We’re going to the hospital at the invitation of the staff, patients, or their relatives,” she says. “We have a bag with Tilly’s stuff. She smells inside and knows the blue collar and belt [the charity’s colours] means she’s going to work. Tilly knows where to go when we get to the hospital and leads me inside. ‘

70-year-old Lilian Henshaw from Holmfirth, who spent four nights in intensive care, said Helen and Tilly's (photo) visit was the best medicine

70-year-old Lilian Henshaw from Holmfirth, who spent four nights in intensive care, said Helen and Tilly's (photo) visit was the best medicine

70-year-old Lilian Henshaw from Holmfirth, who spent four nights in intensive care, said Helen and Tilly’s (photo) visit was the best medicine

Helen and her husband, Steve, 54, have owned their Purple Dog business for ten years. They teach mental health and first aid to NHS trusts and commercial companies. In her spare time, Helen takes Tilly to intensive care.

Lilian Henshaw, from Holmfirth, is just one of many patients who have benefited from a visit from Helen and her pet. The 70-year-old had spent four nights in the ICU with sepsis and was at a critical point in her recovery. “I was scared and knew I was fighting for my life,” she recalls. Helen and Tilly’s visit was the best medicine. Stroking Tilly was so soothing – it took me away from reality. ‘

Helen says the boost to people’s mental health is visible. “Being a patient, a family member or staff at the ICU is under great pressure. We work with the sickest people – some cannot respond and others face a long journey to recovery.

“It has been shown that stroking an animal can lower blood pressure. But it also helps with mental health, giving anxious relatives a different focus. ‘

Helen took a 32-mile round trip daily to deliver treats to the ICU, when the coronavirus pandemic paused for dog and owner visits. In the photo: Helen and Paul Knight

Helen took a 32-mile round trip daily to deliver treats to the ICU, when the coronavirus pandemic paused for dog and owner visits. In the photo: Helen and Paul Knight

Helen took a 32-mile round trip daily to deliver treats to the ICU, when the coronavirus pandemic paused for dog and owner visits. In the photo: Helen and Paul Knight

Helen has the professional experience of talking to concerned or grieving families, or anxious staff, but Tilly is often the icebreaker. They are a powerful double act, ”said Paul Knight, an ICU consultant at Huddersfield and Calderdale hospitals, who nominated Helen and Tilly as Health Heroes.

Employees can also speak to Helen with confidence so they can trust someone associated with the unit, but without burdening another team member.

Last year, when Joanne Morrell, 47, an ICU nurse, lost her 79-year-old mother, Jean, Helen was a lifeline. “Even now, if I’m having a bad day and contacting Helen, she’ll talk to me and get me going again,” says Joanne.

The coronavirus pandemic temporarily interrupted dog and owner ICU visits, but that didn’t stop Helen from helping. During the closing, she made a daily 32-mile round trip to deliver treats and treats to the ICUs.

Su Manning, senior sister and intensive care unit head of both hospitals, called Helen an “angel” for her volunteer work during the pandemic.

“She gathered local shops and companies to donate toiletries, snacks, mineral water, and treats to staff,” says Su. “It’s these little gestures that help everyone get through every day.”

Paul explained that stroking Tilly can be a normal practice for patients who suffer from depression and confusion while recovering. In the photo: Su Manning, Helen and Paul

Paul explained that stroking Tilly can be a normal practice for patients who suffer from depression and confusion while recovering. In the photo: Su Manning, Helen and Paul

Paul explained that stroking Tilly can be a normal practice for patients who suffer from depression and confusion while recovering. In the photo: Su Manning, Helen and Paul

And Su adds, “She did the impossible. A Muslim patient was in intensive care and his family wanted him to hear the Quran. The nurses used laptops so he could pray until Helen gathered a company to deliver a Quran cube [an audio device that recites Quran prayers]. His family was delighted. ‘

Paul Knight says, “Patients can become depressed and confused during recovery. Stroking Tilly is an act of normality. And for employees working at ICU can be emotional. Before the coronavirus, when we died, Helen and Tilly often came by to comfort us. People visibly relax in response to Tilly. ‘

Helen says her volunteering at the ICs has enriched her own life. “When I started, it was about showing people how great Tilly is,” she says.

However, this has turned into something much more. When I raise people’s mood just by taking my wonderful dog to these hospitals I feel like I have achieved something wonderful.

“I can’t wait to go back. I came in last week and one of the consultants immediately asked, ‘Where’s Tilly? We want to see her. She is very much missed. ”

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