A man who lost his sight and can no longer walk after a horse crashed into his car on a motorway has hailed his gran as a heroine for the joy she helps bring to others with her pet dog.
June Tilston is a volunteer with Therapy Dogs Nationwide and takes her adorable pedigree pet schnauzer, Albert, into hospitals, hospices, care homes and community organisations lifting the spirits of ill and vulnerable people.
June and Albert are megastars according to her grandson Ian Tilston who is being cared for at Pendine Park’s Penybryn care home in Wrexham, following his horrific life-changing accident on the M56 in January 2022.
Former warehouse operator, Ian, 35, was driving to work when he took the Junction 10 slip road off the motorway at Cheshire. Unbeknown to him two horses had escaped their field and were running loose on the busy road just as he negotiated the junction.
June said: “Another car in front of him clipped one of the horses and it fell and landed on Ian’s car. The impact was devastating.”
Ian’s life shattered in an instant as he was crushed inside the vehicle, sustaining massive injuries. He suffered two cardiac arrests, major brain trauma and a punctured lung.
He was taken to Salford Royal Hospital where he was in a coma and underwent several brain operations over a period of months.
A team of highly skilled surgeons had to remove part of his skull and rebuild his face it was so severely damaged but they could not save his sight and the nerve trauma was so bad that he can no longer walk.
He was transferred for treatment by leading neurologists at The Walton Centre, Liverpool, before eventually being moved closer to home as a resident at Pendine Park
According to June, the whole family is heartbroken but Ian has shown huge resources of strength in his fight to recover. At first he could not talk but now he is regaining his ability to speak.
June and Albert visit him every week and she said Albert always wants to sit next to Ian on the bed.
She said: “Albert is so gentle with him and they are great pals.”
Ian is proud that his gran achieved her long-held dream of becoming a therapy dog volunteer and he is full of praise for best friend Albert.
He said: “They do great work together. I know all the residents here appreciate their visits. Albert is a real character and a good communicator.”
Staff at Bryn Bella have just raised £65 in funds through a charity raffle in aid of the therapy dogs organisation in appreciation of the good work they do and the amount has been matched by Pendine’s directors, making a total of £130.
Pendine Park Enrichment and Activities Co-ordinator Nicky Clarke said: “We have made individual donations before but this time we wanted to do something a bit more organised so some of our staff donated prizes for a raffle and we sold tickets among ourselves..
“We hope to do some more fundraising in the future as this is such a worthy cause. Albert is a real favourite with our residents and always raises a smile wherever he goes and June is a real credit to the Therapy Dogs organisation.”
June, a life long dog lover he had always wanted to be a Therapy Dogs volunteer but it wasn’t until she got Albert that she had a dog with the right temperament.
She said: “How it works is that each of our dog owners has to have their pet assessed to make sure the animal has the right temperament and good nature to do the job. I used to have a Westie who was far too lively. But as soon as I got Albert I knew he would be perfect.”
Albert, aged seven, was eventually assessed and passed for duty by Therapy Dogs Nationwide.
June said: “He passed with flying colours. He is so calm and never jumps up. People just love him and he behaves so well with anyone who is especially vulnerable.
“As soon as we put his official yellow therapy dogs lead and scarf on him he seems to just know instinctively how to behave.
“I already had Albert before Ian’s accident so they are old friends and they just love each other.”
Ian, a keen football fan and Manchester United supporter, lived in Hawarden before his accident, where his parents still live in St David’s Park.
They are keen for him to one day be able to come home so he can be cared for by his loved ones, but he requires 24 hour care and their house would require major adaptations.
His brother, Adam Tilston, has set up an online appeal at https://www.gofundme.com/f/tw5h3c-ians-story to help raise the funds to convert their property.
On the page Adam explains: “We would like to raise as much money as possible to help bring Ian home and give him some quality of life.”
Local organisations have also run fundraising events in aid of the cause, including a recent charity night at the Red Lion pub in Penyffordd, and a fundraising hike up Snowdon.
In the meantime, Ian is having vital physiotherapy sessions and being cared for by the dedicated staff at Penybryn who June describes as amazing.
She said: “They work so hard to look after all the residents here. It is not just a job for them but a real vocation.
“One of the reasons why I come here with Albert is to give something back as a thank you for all the work they do and to try to help raise the spirits of other residents who like Ian are going through the toughest of times.
“For many of them their lives have changed beyond imagination. If Albert and I can help make their days a little brighter then it’s worth every minute of our time.”