Photo & story Jeff Dawson
Matilda has a new best buddy, Elmo.
No ordinary labradoodle, fifteen-month-old Elmo is one smart puppy and a highly trained seizure-support dog.
On Matilda’s (Tilly) ninth birthday, she was rushed to hospital to find she had Herpes Simplex Virus Encephalitis, a quite devastating, life-changing condition.
Unfortunately the brain lesions caused by this debilitating disease were worsened when, at a million-to-one chance, she contracted Anti-NMDA Receptor Encephalitis. In 2018, this led to Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, meaning chronic high-frequency seizures.
Tilly now requires 24-hour supervision, including while she is sleeping.
Her background seizures are almost constant and she may have five to ten major ‘drop’ seizures per day.
Elmo is training to detect the onset of an episode and comfort her and alert her family, mum Nicole, dad Martin and brother Ruben.
Elmo has been trained at the Sunshine Coast-based Smart Pup assistance dog centre.
You may see him around town, he’s so cute, but he has a very important job to do with Tilly, so he cannot be distracted,
At $20,000, this level of help, vital as it is, doesn’t come cheaply.
The family have also ordered a specially built recumbent tandem bike, which had to be designed and built in Germany, again very expensive.
That’s where this wonderful community came into its own. Fundraising through the Variety Foundation, My Cause, and the Lennox Board Meeting have made these things possible.
Tilly’s mum Nicole has been documenting the family’s journey at www.afterhsvencephalitis.wordpress.com.