Archie is an accredited medical alert assistance dog. He has kept Katie safe ever since he was partnered with her at the beginning of the year.
Katie Purcell, Patient Service Manager for Elderly Medicine, at The Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, has suffered from black outs and seizures since she was born. Her condition worsened when she was 17 years old and she was diagnosed with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, also known as ‘PoTS’. Archie, a black Labrador retriever, is able to detect episodes before they happen through an odour that’s emitted by the human body when chemical changes occur.
After having a pacemaker fitted, undergoing numerous major and minor operations as a result of the falls, and after trying numerous treatments and medications with no success, Katie approached Medical Detection Dogs charity because of the seriousness of her condition.
Archie was fully trained by the charity and has helped alert Katie of both seizures and black outs more than 300 times since they were first introduced to each other six months ago. When Archie senses the start of an episode he immediately nudges and stares at Katie until he gets her attention to provide her with a 2-3 minute warning before her episode occurs. She is then able to lie down flat on the floor until the episode is over, whilst Archie sits by her side.
On one particular occasion recently he blocked Katie’s path, not allowing her down the stairs, to prevent her from falling just before the episode occurred. He is also trained to get the attention of people around for help. By being able to sense the episode before they occur, he provides Katie with enough time to be able to lie down on the floor and have a safe and controlled episode and most importantly prevents her from falling over and badly injuring herself.
Katie is delighted she has been able to train for triathlons on average nine to ten times per week in her gym as well as swimming, without fear of an unexpected and sudden episode. A fear Katie had experienced before being introduced to Archie and had prevented her from training as often.
Katie said “I can’t begin to describe how grateful I am to the Medical Detection Dogs charity. Having Archie with me has massively improved my quality of life. I’m no longer worried about my episodes as Archie gives me the re-assurance that I can control the severity of them. He’s given me the confidence and independence to get on with my everyday life and has helped my episodes become more manageable. He comes everywhere with me and particularly enjoys coming with me when I go training for the triathlons and swimming.”
Archie is currently only one of three dogs in the country trained to alert their owner of PoTS seizures and blackouts. Training usually takes at least 18 months for the dogs; however, Archie was an exceptional case and completed his full training within just 6 months. An incredible achievement in such a short space of time.
Dr Claire Guest, CEO and Director of Operations, Medical Detection Dogs, said: “Since the charity Medical Detection Dogs was formed in 2008 we have placed over 75 medical alert assistance dogs. We support conditions including type 1 diabetes, Addison’s, POT’s and severe allergies and the dogs alert their owners to life threatening episodes on a daily basis. We are delighted to have been able to support Katie with medical alert assistance dog Archie and to see the difference that Archie has made to Katie’s life.”
Katie is now planning to take part in the Rubicon IronTRI 70.3 Half Distance Triathlon in September this year, in which Archie will accompany her for some of the race, and is keen to raise money and awareness of the Medical Detection Dogs charity.
Katie and Archie have recently been nominated for a Daily Mirror Animal Heroes Award 2016 in the ‘Caring Animal of the Year’ category. This category is for an animal who has cared for and shown compassion to an individual and made a difference to their life.
To find out more about the Medical Detection Dogs charity visit- https://www.medicaldetectiondogs.org.uk/