THANKS to the help of hospital staff and a very good boy called Noodle, a girl was finally able to undergo a much-needed operation.

Kiera, 16, has a brain injury from birth that affects her balance, as well as autism. She was due to have three teeth removed under general anaesthetic three years ago. But because Kiera suffers from high levels of anxiety and sensory overload when entering hospital, the operation was repeatedly postponed despite severe pain from teeth growing into the roof of her mouth. 

After an urgent warning from her dentist, Kiera decided that if Noodle – her autism assistance dog – could accompany her to hospital and stay with her until just before surgery, then she would be able to do it. 

Having a dog in surgery is normally a complete no-go, but Vicki Ward, Royal Surrey’s learning disabilities and autism nurse, worked with Kiera, her mum Jac, and teams within the hospital to pull it off. The surgery was planned so Kiera would be last on the morning list, so the anaesthetic room could be thoroughly cleaned before the afternoon list started. 

Vicki said: “We looked at what reasonable adjustments we could make and, for Kiera, Noodle is that reasonable adjustment. 

“Noodle stayed with Kiera until she’d had the general anaesthetic. As soon as she came back from theatre, he couldn’t wait to get back on the bed with her and make sure she was okay.”

Kiera’s mum Jac, who is also autistic, said: “We are so grateful to Vicki and all the staff at Royal Surrey who made it possible for Noodle to help Kiera. When Kiera was starting to come round after her surgery, a machine was beeping because her heart rate was very high – but as soon as Noodle got on to the bed and she saw his face and he applied his weight on her, it came right down.”

Kiera said: “Noodle has made a massive difference to me – he means everything to me and I really struggled before I met him.

“He can tell if I’m upset and helps keep me grounded. He applies deep pressure therapy by lowering his weight on to me if I’m distressed. He’s made it possible for me to leave my house and have a life.”