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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Pet News and Views

October 4th, 2011

By Michele C. Hollow of Pet News and Views

Terri, 53, of Minneapolis, would sometimes experience seizures so strong and without warning that they would leave her badly injured. She would often wake up on the floor and have no idea how long she had been there. She was fearful to leave her home and was forced to stop working.

Prior to moving to Minneapolis, Terri worked as a police officer in New Orleans. Terri requested a service dog to help her with her grand mal seizures. She was also implanted with a pacemaker-like device called VNS Therapy, which is placed under the skin in the chest and delivers mild electrical impulses to the brain via the vagus nerve in the neck. VNS Therapy comes with a magnet that, when swiped over the device for an extra dose of stimulation, can stop or decrease a seizure.

Terri’s dog, Brody, has the VNS Therapy magnet attached to his collar. Brody is trained to lie across Terri’s chest right before or when she is having a seizure. This results in either decreasing or stopping the seizure. Brody was trained by Can-Do-Canines, the only organization that provides this special training to dogs like Brody.

Brody, age 3, is one of three service dogs from the same litter. His brothers, Brewster and Baker, black Labrador Retrievers, work as mobility assistant therapy dogs. You can tell Brody apart from his brothers because he has a little tuft of white hair under his chin, which looks like a beard.

“Brody was selected for me because our personalities matched,” says Terri. “Together we went through training, which was mostly for me. Brody knew most of the commands.”

Service dogs are not new to Terri. She had one for a number of years. Her dog would alert her to the seizures and stay right by her side when they occurred. Thanks to the VNS magnet in Brody’s collar, it is able to decrease the time or stop the seizures. “Because of this technology and because of Can-Do-Canines and Brody, I have my life back,” she says.

The VNS implant that Terri has is about the size of a silver dollar. The battery must be changed every 10 years. “Prior to this, when I had a seizure, I would be flopping around the floor like a fish,” she explains. “Now the seizures—when they do occur—have been reduced from 45 minutes to five.”

When a seizure hits, Terri feels her throat tightening. “It feels like you are hit hard in your Adam’s apple.”

She is not only enjoying time away from hospitals, her costs are down. “It is cheaper to have VNS therapy and Brody than going to the hospital each time I had a seizure.”

The minute Terri goes down, Brody runs to her and lays on her chest. “He snuggles with me, licking my arm. He also braces his body so I can hold onto him to stand up. He brings me a bottle of water, and will push the life alert button.”

“Since Brody has been here, I have not injured myself during the fall. When he alerts me, I let gravity take its course. I’ll go into a seizure and he’s right here. And I come out of the seizure and have the rest of the day back.”

Terri and Brody spend time at the local gym. They go to the movies together, the mall, and restaurants. “Brody has given me my life back,” says Terri.

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