A young Northampton student who faints so often she needs a wheelchair to get around is hoping she can fund a sniffer dog - who will be able to detect when she is about to pass out.
Recently married Michelle Westgarth, 22, of Wootton Fields, was diagnosed with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia (POTS) in April last year.
But her condition, which causes sufferers to faint regularly, is made even tougher by the fact she also suffers from Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) which means she is susceptible to dislocating joints.
Now she is hoping to raise the funds for a special working dog who will be able to detect when she is about to faint, through smell alone. It would give her a vital 10-minute warning to get to a safe place.
She said: “When I’m out and walking, I don’t have the notice of when it’s going to happen. But a dog can notice when you are going to fall.
“I’m hoping with a dog I won’t have to use my wheelchair anymore.”
Mrs Westgarth had not long returned from a holiday to Barcelona when she was diagnosed with POTS.
The 22-year-old, who is trying to complete a degree in social work despite her condition, says she passed out on the flight out but didn’t think about it much at the time.
However, the blackouts kept coming, and the newlywed says she has passed out “several times a week” ever since.
Having been able-bodied before, getting used to a wheelchair was tough, she said. But her blackouts come a lot more regularly when she stands up.
The condition restricts blood flow to the heart when a sufferer is upright. It also causes their standing heart rate to be abnormally high.
“It’s like going for a jog all the time,” said Mrs Westgarth.
While the charity Medical Detection Dogs, would provide her with a medical detection dog for free, Mrs Westgarth says she wants to raise the funds herself, as the Milton Keynes-based charity relies entirely on donations.
So far, she has reached £1,500 of the £11,000 target, but she is hosting a disco and charity auction at Wootton Working Mens Club on Saturday, October 15, to top up the funds.
Mrs Westgarth is currently on the waiting list for a dog, so she is not guaranteed one at this stage, but she says that she will donate all proceeds to the charity either way.
Anyone who can donate prizes to the event can contact Michelle on firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information on the work Medical Detection Dogs do, head to: www.medicaldetectiondogs.org.uk