LONDON - Bedridden and dying from cancer, Mrs Sheila Marsh's last wish was to bid farewell to a horse which she had raised since it was a foal.
Her wish came true last Monday - just hours before she died - when her beloved pet was led to the 77-year-old's hospital bed, which had been wheeled into the carpark of the Wigan Infirmary where she had been staying.
Barely audible, Mrs Marsh called out to Bronwen - a dark brown mare with streaks of white - that she had owned for almost two decades.
The animal approached and gently grazed her face with its muzzle as hospital staff and onlookers were left in tears.
"We listened and acted on Mrs Marsh's last wishes," Ms Gail Taylor, a bereavement liaison specialist nurse at the hospital, was quoted as saying by The Telegraph.
"Sheila gently called to Bronwen and the horse bent down tenderly and kissed her on the cheek as they said their last goodbyes."
Mrs Marsh died peacefully hours later in the hospital after giving Bronwen one last kiss, Wigan Today reported on its website last Friday.
The touching scene was captured in photos which were tweeted by Mr Andrew Foster, chief executive of the Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh National Health Service (NHS) Foundation Trust that runs the Wigan Infirmary, to hail the hospital staff for going the extra mile for the terminally ill patient.
The photo was re-tweeted more than 1,000 times and favourited at least 760 times as of yesterday.
"I am really pleased to have been able to facilitate the visit from Mrs Marsh's horse," Ms Pauline Law, deputy director of nursing of the trust, was reported as saying by The Telegraph.
"This was obviously extremely important to her and her family and we feel privileged to have been able to provide this support at this crucial stage of her care."
Mrs Marsh, a former racecourse worker, had a lifelong affiliation with horses. Besides Bronwen, the hospital also allowed her dog Poddy to accompany her on her bed.
"She had a really special relationship with Bronwen," said Mrs Marsh's 33-year-old daughter Tina, adding that her mother had not seen Bronwen and Poddy for two weeks.
"She had her for about 18 or 19 years from Bronwen being seven. It was so touching for us all, it meant a lot to us."
This article was first published on November 9, 2014.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.