A veteran who was fighting for his life in a coma is recovering thanks to the dog that stayed by his hospital bed and the duck that takes him for walks.
Paul Wilkie, 47, suffers from PTSD which has caused a number of physical illnesses including Crohn’s and colitis.
While in hospital in 2016, Paul developed life-threatening sepsis which placed him in a coma for 10 days.
Given just 36 hours to live at one point, Paul ended up staying in the hospital for a further seven months.
During that time his ‘Bravehound’ Irma was by his side, only leaving it when he was placed in the ICU.
Irma is the first specially trained dog by the Scottish charity Bravehound who helps support former servicemen and women.
She was recently named the most caring animal in the UK at the Animal Hero Awards 2017 earlier this month.
Paul, Irma and Paul’s duck North are seen walking around his neighbourhood most days.
Paul said: “When I have flashbacks Irma wakes me up so I only have the start of the flashback.
“She knows when I am gonna have a flashback she tries to wake me up by licking my face. She’s just there for me.
“She’s always watching me, she’s kind of like a mother to me, she follows me out of the room to make sure I’m okay.”
Paul spent 22 years in the Royal Engineers and served in the Falklands, Bosnia and Iraq.
He began suffering from PTSD in 2012 and has flashbacks from his experience 18 years ago in Bosnia.
He added: “I think Irma saved my life. Before I had Irma I was suicidal, and I’m even worse physically now than I was then, and Irma kept me going. She gives me more energy.”
Paul lives with Irma, his cat Mr Tibbs, and three ducks, North, Hesco and Bastion.
North was hatched by Paul with Mr Tibbs and Irma by his side, and the duck now thinks Irma is his mother.
Paul said: “They’re inseparable. You’ll always see the three of us walking about.
“He can’t quite waddle fast enough so he’ll fly and land next to us to catch up.”
Being around the ducks is therapeutic for Paul and he keeps his ducks in a chicken coop in his garden.
Fiona MacDonald, founder of Glen Art which runs the Bravehound programme, said: “Bravehounds give veterans who might be struggling with civilian life or have mental health issues, a constant companion and a reason to get out in the community, to join in with our social events and activities, and to have fun.”
Paul is supported by both his furry and feathered friends and hopes to write a book detailing his life story.