As Jacob Cachia, the teenage ‘Titanium Man’ whose battle with a rare brain infection brought him to national attention, lay in hospital three years ago after one of three life-threatening surgeries, he repeated one request above all others – to be reunited with his pet dog, Peanut.
As the family quickly learned, however, there is currently no area in Mater Dei Hospital where patients can bring their four-legged love ones. Unwilling to give up altogether, there was only one solution.
After much pleading with medical staff, Jacob was propped up and, still too weak to hold his head up, wheeled outside the hospital’s busy main entrance for the much-awaited meeting with Peanut.
“We all wept tears of joy. After weeping for months tears of heartache and pain, finally we shared a moment of pure happiness,” said Jacob’s mother, Sarah Cachia. “But at the back of my mind I kept thinking it wasn’t right to have to share such a special moment there.
“He had more of a chance of getting sick from passers-by or the cold than from our dog.”
That short visit, Ms Cachia said, was “medicine” for Jacob, and played a big role in his road to recovery. Three years later, Ms Cachia is hoping to set things right, having just obtained permission to build a pet cabin on hospital grounds, where sick people can have visits with their pets in safety and comfort.
The project carries a €13,000 price tag – for which Ms Cachia is now appealing to the public for help
The green-light comes after nearly a year of discussions with various departments at the hospital, including Infection Control and Engineering, and for Ms Cachia, who also runs the Survivors Malta support group, it represents an opportunity to bring a spot of hope to families facing trauma.
The conservatory-like structure, which will be called the Reunited Pet Cabin, will house garden furniture, which will be waterproof to allow them to be hosed down for hygiene purposes, and be large enough to fit a wheelchair or even a hospital bed.
The cabin will be connected to the hospital interior so patients will not be exposed to any changes in temperature, and will also play host to other pet-related activities such as pet therapy.
The project, however, carries with it a €13,000 price tag – for which Ms Cachia is now appealing to the public for help. Survivors Malta has teamed up with Junior Chamber International (JCI), a youth organisation of which Jacob is a member, to raise the money to make the dream a reality.
A crowdfunding campaign on local platform Zaar has already raised more than 10 per cent of its goal within a few days of going live, and Ms Cachia hopes that animal lovers, companies and others can help get the project across the line.
“You can help us to create that ray of sunshine on a rainy day and bring much joy to so many families who are otherwise going through the traumatic experience of an illness,” she said.
Anyone interested can support the Reunited Pet Cabin by visiting www.zaar.com.mt/projects/reunited-mater-dei-pet-cabin, by bank transfer (IBAN MT35MMEB44118000000011076692052; beneficiary JCI Malta) or by sending a cheque to JCI Malta, c/o Exchange Buildings, Republic Street, Valletta.
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