Sniffer dog trained in Aylesbury Vale has changed the life of woman with chronic illness

It wasn't safe for Fay to go out or stay home alone - until she was partnered with Medical Detection Dog Olive

Wednesday, 5th January 2022, 2:17 pm

A specialist assistance dog trained in Aylesbury Vale has changed the life of a young woman with a serious medical condition.

Fay Butler, 26, suffers from numerous medical problems, including Postural tachycardia syndrome (PoTS) - where an extreme increase in heart rate can cause her to black out without warning.

Prior to her diagnosis with PoTS, Fay was an active teenager and an enthusiastic cheerleader.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Fay and Olive

Unfortunately, fainting episodes became so frequent she had to give up cheerleading, followed by many of her other hobbies like sewing and baking.

Eventually Fay needed help to tie her own shoelaces to avoid an episode.

No situation was safe - episodes could even take place while she was sitting in a chair - so she could neither go out alone or be at home on her own.

The falls following a faint often led to emergency hospital visits and life was dismal.

Olive

“It felt like I was losing everything. I felt miserable, hopeless and alone," Fay said.

But then she read about Medical Detection Dogs, the charity based in Great Horwood that trains dogs to use their amazing sense of smell to warn someone of an impending medical episode.

The dogs are trained to identify minute odour changes emitted prior to a medical emergency and alert the person to take preventative action.

Fay, from Basingstoke, applied to Medical Detection Dogs to be partnered with a dog in 2018.

Fay and Olive

As time went on, Fay’s health declined, and she required hospital admissions due to gastroparesis, or paralysed stomach, which necessitated a feeding tube.

Then Covid struck and Medical Detection Dogs had to put all new partnerships on hold.

Fay spent six weeks alone in hospital with severe intestinal problems, and recalls her "feeling of hopelessness".

"I remember being terrified I wouldn’t be well enough when I got my dog," she said.

But in March 2021, Fay was contacted by Medical Detection Dogs and invited to meet Olive, a Labrador/retriever cross.

At one of their first meetings at the charity's Great Horwood headquarters, Olive, although not yet scent trained for PoTS, immediately alerted when Fay had an episode in the meeting room.

Specialist scent training began and, in June, Olive came home to stay with Fay.

Fay said: “Olive is a fun, loving character who has a complete love for life.

"She has this calming energy about her and just makes you feel relaxed in her presence.

"It feels as if Olive has always been with us, like she was the missing piece to a puzzle and now it’s complete."

Olive has a very high success alert rate, which gives Fay up to five minutes to get to a safe place on the floor before losing consciousness.

When Fay comes round, Olive even fetches water for her and can pick up dropped items.

Life is now opening up again for Fay, who says Olive represents "confidence, happiness and safety" to her.

No longer needing constant supervision by her family at home, Fay can go out with Olive to shops in their local town, and visits to A&E are thankfully a thing of the past.

Fay said: "I can see a future for myself. I’ve made new friends and been able to experience new things. I can’t wait for further adventures with Olive and to see where life takes us."

And she added: "I have the perfect dog by my side and my life has never been better. I wouldn’t change a single thing."