A woman's best friend: How the support of her 'alert dogs' has helped woman enduring up to 25 epileptic seizures every day finally lead a life of independence
- Sally's epilepsy began as a child, and has completely controlled her life since
- She suffers at least five seizures each day and as many as 19 each night
- But owning a 'seizure alert dog' has allowed Sally to complete basic daily actions, such as making her first cup of tea in over 30 years
- To train and support just one dog across its lifetime costs the Support Dogs charity upwards of £30,000
As an overwhelming condition affecting the neurons of the brain, epilepsy is far more common than most may think.
In fact, the NHS estimate that one in every 100 people is affected by the disorder in some form or another.
But for Sally – who was diagnosed with epilepsy as a very young child – the condition is totally all-consuming, controlling every single aspect of her life. To her, a life without epilepsy is unimaginable.
Each dog costs roughly £30,000 to fund and train over its lifetime
For as long as she can remember, Sally has suffered at least four to five seizures each day. Not only this, but she can also experience as many as up to 19 seizures on a night time.
Dealing with this made life growing up incredibly difficult for both her, and those around her. ‘I could never be left alone,’ shares Sally, speaking to Support Dogs online.
‘I had to be home taught, and making friends or meeting new people was difficult. I often felt very lonely.’
Everyday life remained challenging for Sally for many years – until the opportunity arose to undergo a dangerous brain surgery procedure that could potentially end her seizures altogether.
"Meeting new people was difficult. I often felt very lonely."
With her childhood sweetheart and husband Philip by her side, a 28-year-old Sally went into the operation hopeful and positive. But unfortunately, the procedure was unsuccessful.
No impact was had to Sally’s seizures, as she continued to experience them multiple times a day without warning. Unable to leave the house alone for fear of what may happen, she began to feel as though she'd come to the end of the line.
A Helping Hound
But not long after, Sally discovered the work of Support Dogs in an Epilepsy Society magazine – a charity who train and support assistance dogs for people with epilepsy, autism and disabilities.
Although sceptical at first, Sally met with a lady with epilepsy who informed her how her seizure alert dog delivered a 100% reliable alert 50 minutes before she suffered a convulsion. This gave the owner plenty of time to get to a place of safety and privacy – allowing her to gain an element of control over her condition.
Sally immediately signed up to the waiting list. Today, over 13 years later, she is now enjoying life with her second support dog Robbie, after relishing a life-changing 11 years with her first dog Star.
Owning a support dog has transformed daily life massively for Sally, allowing her to perform tasks that would seem trivial to many of us.
Statistics show that one in every 100 people in the UK will experience a form of Epilepsy
‘One of the first things I did when I first had Star was to make myself a cup of tea, something I had not been able to do in 30 years because of the risks of having a seizure when holding boiling water,' Sally explains.
'I then went into town on my own - a lifetime first. Having a seizure alert dog instantly made my life liveable. I can’t believe how good he is. This incredible improvement in the quality of my life has also helped to reduce the number of seizures I experience each day.’
"One of the first things I did when I first had Star was to make myself a cup of tea, something I had not been able to do in 30 years."
A New Lease of Life
Support Dogs' life-changing work comes at a steep price, as each assistant dog is estimated to cost the charity over £30,000 to fund across its lifetime.
Yet, it is clear the partnership, compassion and loyalty provided by Support Dogs’ assistance dogs is invaluable to the lives of hundreds of Britons who have lost their independence as a result of various medical conditions.
For Sally, the impact Robbie has on her life extends way beyond her physical needs, to her psychological state and wellbeing.
‘These dogs do more than break down the barriers erected by illness or a deteriorating condition,’ she explains. ‘Without a dog, people tend to look right through you if you have a disability. You feel ignored quite a lot.
‘But with Robbie people stop and ask what he does to help me. That gives me a chance to explain how he helps make my life so much more liveable.’
"Without a dog, people tend to look right through you if you have a disability."