Michelle Westgarth – a third year Social Work student from the University of Northampton – has now raised nearly £5,000 of the £11,200 it takes to train a Medical Detection Dog.
Michelle – who has Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, which makes her susceptible to dislocating joints – is on the waiting list for a medical alert assistance dog, trained by the Medical Detection Dogs charity. The charity’s work and support has inspired her to fundraise enough to meet her ambitious target.
Michelle, whose story has been featured on ITV Anglia and in the Chronicle and Echo, recently organised a ‘family fun night’ to raise funds. The evening included a disco, auction, raffle and stalls and raised over £3,975. University of Northampton Oncology lecturer Melissa Symonds and Medical Detection Dog in training, Lupus were the star guests of the evening.
Michelle explained: “The event ran very smoothly and everyone seemed to have a lovely time, with very positive feedback throughout. What was nice to see that was people who I hadn’t met before had seen my advertising on either Twitter, Facebook, banners or flyers that I put in shops had acknowledged the event was happening and come along, even if they had no personal connection to myself or the charity.”
“People were introducing themselves to me all night and it was nice to know why they had come out on a rainy Saturday evening when they could have been watching X Factor… Some people had seen me on the news and were interested, some people saw Medical Detection Dogs on BBC recently and others had heard that this charity trains dogs to detect cancer, so they had an interest in coming along. Or as one person said… “I saw your flyer in Tesco and thought to myself, it’s for dogs, I’ve got to go. Anything for dogs!”
Michelle added: “All in all, it was a lovely evening and it blew my expectations. I was expecting to raise around £1,000, so I am over the moon.”
Medical Detection Dogs are highly trained, and the hounds can detect minute changes in the odour of their keepers and alert them of an impending medical event. It can take up to 18 months to train a puppy and it costs the charity £11,200 to care, train, place and support a dog and his ‘owner’ for life.
Having a support dog will make Michelle’s studies easier. She explained: “Having a support dog would improve my time at University 100 per cent. When I’m out and about on campus, I don’t have prior notice of when I may faint, but a dog can notice when you are about to fall. I’m hoping that with a dog I won’t have to use my wheelchair anymore.”
To donate to Michelle’s campaign, click here.