Thursday 25 August 2016

A third year Social Work student from the University of Northampton is hoping to raise funds to pay for a medical alert assistance dog, which would make a significant difference to her life and studies.

Twenty-two year old Michelle Westgarth, from Wootton Fields, was diagnosed with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia (POTS) in April 2015. The condition, which causes her to regularly faint, is made even more difficult as she also suffers from Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), and is susceptible to dislocating joints.

Michelle is on the waiting list for a medical alert assistance dog, trained by the Medical Detection Dogs charity. The highly trained dogs 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.

Michelle explained: “I use a wheelchair to get around at the moment, as it keeps me safe if I faint when out and about – I can faint several times a week. I’m hoping to raise £11,200 to pay for the charity to train a medical alert assistance dog.”

Michelle, who is based at the University of Northampton’s Park Campus, will be starting the third year of her course next month. “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.”

One of Michelle’s tutors, Angie Bartoli (Leader in Social Work), commented: “Michelle is a remarkable young woman. She started her social work programme with passion and enthusiasm and soon became popular amongst her student group and with tutors. I am struck by her innate compassion and empathy towards others – the stuff we can’t easily teach. Unsurprisingly she was voted by her peers as their student rep.  She developed her condition part-way through her course after months and months of relentless medical tests and appointments. In true Michelle style, she has approached her new situation as a challenge to conquer through determination and a ‘can do’ attitude. I know that it’s a cliche, but she is truly inspirational. She rarely moans and often smiles. I am sure that she will achieve her dream to become a social worker and the profession will be in a better place when this happens.  Michelle is a pleasure to know and has taught me a tremendous amount about how individuals can adjust to the curve balls that life throws at them.”

Family Fun Night - posterSo far, Michelle has reached £1,500 of her £11,200 target – to donate, visit Michelle’s GoFundMe page. To raise additional funds, Michelle will be hosting a Family Fun Night featuring a disco and charity auction at Wootton Working Men’s Club, Wootton Village, Northampton NN4 6LW on Saturday, October 15 from 7pm. The evening will also feature a raffle, stalls and sweets.  Anyone who would like to donate prizes can contact Michelle via email.

If you would like to make a donation please visit Michelle’s gofundme profile.

Michelle is also keen to hear from people who may have fundraising suggestions, especially her fellow students. If you would like to help, please contact Michelle directly. For more information on the work Medical Detection Dogs do, please visit their website.

Pictured: Michelle Westgarth, charity logo and a medical detection dog in training for the charity.


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