A lovely labrador named Freddie helps rescue his owner every single day, despite the fact he’s not a trained service dog.
Lucy Brown was diagnosed earlier this year with non-epileptic attack disorder (NEAD), a condition causing the brain to randomly blackout and the sufferer to lose control of their limbs.
The 20-year-old can suffer up to 100 seizures a day, and as a result of her diagnosis Lucy had to give up her job and leave the house she had been sharing with her boyfriend to move back in with her parents, so they could take care of her whenever she experienced a seizure.
When her parents are at work, however, the former care worker relies on her faithful dog, Freddie, to keep an eye on her.
The Labrador has received no more training than the average pet, but whenever Lucy has a seizure he licks and paws at her until she regains consciousness.
The 20-year-old, from Warrington, Cheshire, described how the pup comes to her aid, saying:
I can’t remember the first time he helped. But, from what I’ve been told, he just ran straight over to me, starting licking my face and cuddled his body into me.
He’s the main reason I moved back home. He will help me when I’m on my own. He’s my dog – I got him as a puppy. He’s always by my side and will just lie with me.
He does what seizure dogs do – he licks me and paws me to bring me round but has never had any training.
It’s common for epilepsy patients have ‘seizure dogs’ specifically trained to respond to a seizure.
The animals can be taught a number of methods to care for their owners, including barking to alert carers, lying down next to sufferers to prevent injury, activating alarms and putting their body between the seizing individual and the floor to break their fall.
Lucy had suffered mild seizures in her mid-teens, and although they disappeared as she got older they returned at the beginning of this year, becoming more severe and frequent.
Doctors initially believed she had epilepsy, but tests eventually led to her diagnosis of NEAD. The attacks look like epileptic seizures, but they are not caused by electrical activity in the brain.
It’s thought the condition is the brain’s response to overwhelming stress, but NEAD is little-understood and therefore there may be other causes.
Following her diagnosis, Lucy experienced depression and drifted apart from many of her closest friends. She described her life as ‘very lonely’, admitting she doesn’t do much and can’t even have a bath alone because of the frequency of her seizures.
Lucy described the condition, saying:
I average about ten seizures a day, although it was up at around 100 in February.
They range from staring into space to full-on fits. I have to make sure I’m in a safe place. A couple of times a month they go above 20 or 30 a day.
The former care worker believes ‘everyone is moving on with their lives’ while she is ‘held back’ as a result of NEAD. The condition has forced Lucy to cancel plans last minute and in turn friends stopped inviting her to do things together.
Socialising is just no good as you’re in fear of having [a seizure]. I’ve lost a lot of friends.
I get occasional texts off of a couple of people but I just have lost contact with a lot as I rely on others. I won’t go anywhere on my own.
Sadly, Lucy said she lives in constant fear of an attack striking, though she is holding out hope the seizures may vanish like they did in her teens.
I might have to live with [NEAD] for the rest of my life. But it could also stop tomorrow.
I’ve got some other health problems – I’m going through some tests at the moment. They want to rule out epilepsy completely although I’m already sure it’s not. They have to be 100% sure as if you’re not on medication it can damage your brain.
It’s great Lucy has a companion like Freddie to rely on, though hopefully her seizures will stop soon so she and her pet can just enjoy hanging out together.
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Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.