The hospital that granted rider Sheila Marsh’s last wish to see her horse is “truly amazed” at the emotional response to the story from around the world.
The 77-year-old grandmother from Wigan was visited by her favourite horse, Bronwen, which she had looked after for 25 years last week (3 November).
The picture of the bay mare nuzzling Mrs Marsh a few hours before she died was picked up by newspapers, radio and TV stations in the UK, America and Australia.
Staff at Wigan Royal Infirmary acted on a request from the family and allowed the horse to be brought to the hospital.
The horses were led through the hospital car park after being unloaded in a disabled parking bay beside the hospital.
The nursing staff wheeled Mrs Marsh down the corridor in her bed to the entrance to say goodbye to her horse.
“Sheila gently called to Bronwen and the horse bent down tenderly and touched her on the cheek as they said their last goodbyes,” said Gail Taylor, a bereavement liason specialist nurse.
The bereavement team at the hospital work with patients and families to try and accommodate last wishes.
Requests for fresh flowers or a certain drink are often made and last year one patient asked to see her dog. But never before has there been a wish to see a horse.
“End of life care with our patients is paramount and fundamental to what we do. We put our patients and family at the centre of everything we do, especially in the last days and hours of life. We listened to and acted on Shelia’s last wish to say goodbye to her horse that she’d had for the past 25 years from a foal,” explained Gail Taylor.
“Capturing keepsake mementos can help with the grief journey which we all experience after the death of a loved one,” said Gail Taylor.
Pauline Taylor, the deputy director of nursing at the hospital who authorised Bronwen’s visit said: “This was obviously extremely important to Mrs Marsh and her family and we feel privileged to have been able to provide this support at this crucial stage of her care.”
Mrs Marsh, who used to work at Haydock Park racecourse, was paid a farewell visit from one of her dogs the weekend before she was visited by Bronwen.
She had six horses, three dogs and three cats and a close friend described her as “devoted to her horses and other pets.”