Hero dog: How ‘diagnosis’ Labrador has changed my life

She would black out unexpectedly up to 10 times a day due to a devastating fainting condition.

That was until she met Archie, a four-year-old black Labrador who has been trained to anticipate her blackouts by a change in her smell.

Since Archie moved into her home, Katie has suffered no injuries. Archie will nudge her and lick her and do “everything he can” to alert her to lie down before she faints.

Living with Archie has changed Katie’s life. 

By the time she was in her 20s, Katie, now 27, had broken most of the bones in her body including her eye socket, skull, hip, back and collar bone from falls.

She has recently qualified and received funding for an international swimming competition after being injury free for two years, and it’s all thanks to Archie.

Archie is one of more than 100 dogs specially trained by experts at the Milton Keynes-based Medical Detection Dogs, a charity which is harnessing the canines’ highly acute sense of smell to help people manage conditions such as diabetes and provide a potentially lifesaving warning system.

The group, which is rapidly expanding, has recently included postural tachycardia syndrome (PoTS) – the condition Katie suffers from – to the list of issues the dogs are expected to help manage. 

Katie, an NHS manager from Wakefield, West Yorkshire, started to get blackouts when she was 17, after collapsing while singing in the school choir.

She said: “I literally fell face down and was unconscious. I banged my head that time and when I came round all my friends were round me.

“When I got Archie I was having up to 10 blackouts a day and it could happen any time. I was just terrified, I was constantly in A&E. I have broken everything. I just gave up. I was so low.”

She successfully applied for a dog from Medical Detection Dogs and Archie moved in with her last year.

 “Two to three minutes before I black out, his little nose twitches. If I am walking or whatever I am doing, he will get in front of me and block me, and stare at my eyes and even if I say, ‘Stop it!’ he will not let me be. He will just sit down, nudge and lick my hands. He will blank stare me. He won’t look at anyone else, even if they call him.”

She added: “He has absolutely changed my life. He comes everywhere with me – even to work.”

Clare Guest, cofounder of Medical Detection Dogs, said: The potential is huge.

"The dog is a sophisticated biosensor with a fluffy coat and a waggy tail.”

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