Detection Dogs trains dogs to detect the odour of human
disease. It is at the forefront of the research into the
fight against cancer and helping people with life-threatening
Dogs are trained to find the odour of diseases, such as
cancer, in samples such as urine, breath and swabs. Our
Medical Alert Assistance Dogs are trained to detect minute
changes in an individual’s personal odour triggered
by their disease* and alert them to an impending medical
event. We receive no government funding for the work we
do and rely entirely on the generosity of donations from
trusts and the public. *Please note, we do not train dogs
to alert to epileptic seizures.
only did she benefitted from these charities Alice now fundraises
for other children
(These are my words not hers)
received an email from Genni at Rays of Sunshine today informing
me that the Middlesex Grand Family Fete at the Royal Masonic
School for Girls is supporting Rays of Sunshine as one of
their charities of the year along with Medical Detection
Dogs, is that correct? Ironically I have benefitted from
both charities, Rays of Sunshine by having a wish granted
by them three years ago and i am now their Special Ambassador
and now Medical Detection Dogs as I was partnered with Holly
my diabetic alert dog last year!
am delighted you will be supporting both charities and I
am still shocked that I have connections with both charities.
Genni felt it would be a good idea if I got in touch with
you and basically explained how both charities have impacted
upon my life over the last five years.
is what I usual use when I speak at events for Rays of Sunshine
which I thought may be of interest to you;
Six years ago, I was a healthy fourteen year old who was
gaining independence and enjoying planning the future ahead
however In June 2006, at the age of fifteen, I was diagnosed
with type 1 diabetes. Within months it became apparent that
something wasn’t right. ‘Don’t let it
rule your life’; the medics said at diagnosis, but
to my family and I it clearly was.
was ruling me, not the other way. What I thought was a simple
chronic condition had suddenly changed my way of life completely!
Within months of my diagnosis with diabetes, I was frequently
being admitted into my local hospital with fluctuating blood
sugar levels. A normal blood sugar should be between 4 and
8mmols, mine was fluctuating between 0.5 and 39mmols. As
a result I would regularly be found unconscious due to low
blood sugar seizures and on the other scale, my body acidic
due to extremely high sugar levels.
hospital was becoming my home and normal everyday living
like socialising with friends came to a sudden halt. Ten
months after diagnosis, my condition became life threatening
and I was transferred to the Leeds General Infirmary in
hope that some answers would be found. Moving away from
home comforts and the company of family and friends was
difficult and upsetting but I knew it was for the best.
number of blood tests were taken and my blood was sent global.
Eventually we had some results, a high insulin level and
insulin antibodies were present - this was the reason behind
why I had been experiencing so many problems! Everything
was a risk and a guessing game, there wasn’t anyone
out there with a similar problem and that was the difficult
part. Time was against us, my body was fighting the insulin
I required to keep me alive and although I needed it, it
was in fact making my condition worse. My low blood sugars
were becoming more severe and I spent a large amount of
time connected to various intravenous pumps and monitors
to try and stablise my condition.
way of removing my antibodies needed to be found and each
recommended treatment I had didn’t seem to work. The
suggested drugs were becoming more aggressive; stronger
immune suppression treatment, chemotherapy or a bone marrow
a lot of sleepless nights for my consultant, desperately
trying to find a way forward an unlicensed drug was discovered
which would remove all my antibody making cells and in effect
restart my immune system completely but there were no guarantees
and the long term side effects were unknown. It was a risk
we had to take as there were very few options available.
Although the drug removed my antibodies, having the immune
system of a newborn baby brought secondary problems; line
infections, blood clots and Endocarditis – an infection
of the heart valve.
Despite it being five years of highs and lows, I was fortunate
to be granted a wish by Rays of Sunshine. When I was given
my wish pack five years ago by the play leader at the Leeds
General Infirmary, not only was I in a state of shock that
I would be considered for one but what would I choose –
That was the moment I realised how poorly I was. In my naivety,
wishes were for terminally ill children who went to Lapland
– how very wrong I was.
At the time of completing my wish pack, my condition was
continuing to deteriorate. I desperately wanted some time
away from the hospital with my family but I knew if my consultant
didn’t feel I was well enough to walk to the hospital
shop, the likely hood of me being able to go on a magical
wish was minimal.
decided upon my three wishes and we posted the pack to Rays
of Sunshine, clinging on to the hope that one day, I would
be well enough to enjoy my wish. Within weeks, we were delighted
to hear Rays of Sunshine were going to grant my wish to
go to London to see The Lion King. Rays of Sunshine wanted
to grant my wish as soon as possible but understood I was
too poorly to leave the hospital. They are the sunshine
that came into my life when there was very little around,
My wish was something I could focus on, knowing in time,
once my condition improved, I could enjoy my special wish.
a two year wait, I was well enough to leave my hospital
bed for the night providing two nurses joined us to monitor
my condition. I couldn’t believe it; the time had
finally come for me to enjoy my first night away from my
hospital bed in two and a half years and for us to spend
some much needed time together as a family! After a sleepless
night due to excitement, our two day stay in London had
finally arrived. Mum, dad, my sister, Laura, two nurses
and I were collected from outside the Leeds General Infirmary
and taken to the Leeds station were my magical wish began.
we arrived in London, waiting for us outside Kings Cross
station was our own chauffeur-driven pink limousine. We
had an idea there was something special waiting for us,
but we didn’t think it would be a pink limousine.
The driver said it was ours for the day – it was like
being a celebrity!
We checked into the Hilton hotel and enjoyed a relaxing
afternoon until the limousine collected us and took us to
Planet Hollywood where we were treated to a lovely meal
before the show. The Lion King performance was spectacular
and lived up to all expectations. We enjoyed the luxury
of sleeping in hotel beds and struggled to choose what to
have the following morning for breakfast – I was used
to toast or cereal at the hospital!!
We had a lovely shop in harrods on our second day before
catching the train back to Leeds. For the duration of my
wish I could forget about being in hospital, enjoy being
treated like a princess and feeling “normal”
again. Being in hospital for three years and having an unpredictable
condition meant leaving the security of the hospital environment
was worrying for both mum and dad, however Rays of Sunshine
gave us a worry free experience that wouldn’t have
been possible without their help!
Knowing everything was organised for us – from start
to finish, all we needed to focus on was having a fantastic
time and creating those happy memories that mean so much!
Even now, as my condition continues to improve, I look back
at the photos of my wish and special times with rays of
sunshine with a huge smile on my face – they are the
happy memories I have of my unique journey, a journey I
never thought I would have to go through!
Rays of Sunshine gave me that boost and determination to
continue to fight whatever my condition threw at me! Having
a Rays of Sunshine wish granted is definitely one of the
Following my wish, I wanted to give other children a similar
opportunity to me and knew the only was I could do that
was to start fundraising from my hospital bed! I have met
so many lovely families and sadly not all of them are now
3 months of my wish, Alice’s Sunshine Appeal in aid
of Rays of Sunshine was formed and in 3 years, with the
help of family and friends, we have raised over £50,000
for Rays of Sunshine in which many special wishes have been
granted and turned into happy memories.
a former wish child, I can appreciate how the simplest of
wishes like going to a musical, going on holiday or going
to the zoo can mean so much to that child as an individual.
One of those wishes may be something you take for granted
or enjoy as part of an annual experience – but for
many of those children – going to hospital, clinic
appointments and treatment is their experience!
I do believe that being ill has made me a better person;
I appreciate what I have in life and enjoy the simple things
that mean so much to me as an individual. Despite being
in a bubble for three years, I have been given so many different
opportunities; I have been granted a Rays of Sunshine wish,
received a RoS Special Recognition Award, met some amazing,
inspirational children and made many new friends that I
would never have met if I hadn’t become ill. I also
became one very proud Special Ambassador for Rays of Sunshine.
Since raising money for them it has brought a smile to my
face on so many occasions knowing that I am helping other
children have their once in a life time wish granted.
Rays of Sunshine is still a very special part of my life;
they have become my Rays of Sunshine family! Every single
person in my sunshine family have all supported me in some
way along my unique journey and helped me become the person
I am today…their Special Ambassador! Who would have
thought two years after having a Rays of Sunshine wish granted,
I would be stood here today sharing my story with the title
of Rays of Sunshine Special Ambassador!
They have given me so many happy and special times and have
done for so many seriously ill children and their families.
For the duration of a child’s wish, they can forget
about their illness and enjoy creating happy memories as
a family. I believe every child living with a serious illness
deserves the chance to have their magical Rays of Sunshine
wish granted and experience the joy and excitement of doing
something they have only ever dreamt of before!
Not only do I hold the very honourable title of their Special
ambassador but in June 2011, I became part of the wish team;
I am now a Rays of Sunshine Wish Co-ordinator. I am delighted
to be part of the wish team and I’m looking forward
to welcoming very brave and inspiration children into the
Rays of Sunshine family by granting their magical wish.
Granting Jack’s wish was an emotional day but also
a memorable one and it will forever hold so many memories;
partly because it was the first wish I granted. Reading
the wish packs of seriously ill children always makes me
remember, there is always someone worse off than yourself
- these children are the inspiring ones – they continue
to amaze me with their courage and determination!
After three and a half years in hospital, I was delighted
to be discharged from my hospital bed in December 2010 with
a team of nurses to monitor my condition. My health is continuing
to slowly improve and I am thoroughly enjoying being back
at home and starting to get a part of my life back with
Holly, my hypo alert dog! Holly is trained to detect and
alert me when my blood sugar levels are too high or low.
I am very much looking forward to my new found freedom with
Holly and her helping me create magical wishes for seriously
My journey with Rays of Sunshine will continue for as long
as they need me because I know how important it is to have
a wish granted.
Due to the extreme fluctuation in my blood sugar levels,
I have no warning signs when my blood sugar is too high
or low which can lead to emergency medical assistance. Holly
has been trained by the charity ‘Medical Detection
Dogs,’ to recognise low and high blood sugar levels,
which give off a different scent compared with blood sugars
that are within the normal range. She alerts me by licking
my hand, pawing me or she will go and fetch my blood sugar
kit and bring it back to me when asked.
Never did I think months after being partnered with Holly
we would have been on television, welcomed at the House
of Parliament and that Holly would become one of two assistance
dogs to enter 10 Downing Street! She was a true walking
ambassador for Medical Detection Dogs and raised awareness
of them to the best of her ability.
I am amazed at how far Holly has come in such a short space
of time and how quickly she has adapted to everything that
has been thrown at her. In the last year, a day hasn’t
gone by where Holly hasn’t needed to alert me at least
once; be it a high blood sugar, low blood sugar or rapid
increase or decrease in my blood sugar level and she has
stepped up to the mark in true Holly style.
When I look back, I think 28 alerts in 12hours has been
the most so far and she was spot on every single time saving
my life with a simple sniff. Before Holly, a day like that
could have resulted in a hospital admission due to a hypoglycaemic
seizure or diabetic ketoacidosis but thanks to Holly’s
regular alerts, so far we have been able to manage my condition
at home. A huge achievement and step in the right direction
after previously spending three years in hospital!
She takes everything in her stride and makes me so very
proud of her.
Each day I look at Holly playing, having snuggles or alerting
me and realise how very lucky I am. I don’t think
I could have been partnered with a better dog. She plays
such a huge part in my life and somehow each and every day,
her big personality shines through and puts a huge smile
on my face.
She is absolutely amazing in more ways than one and we are
all getting used to her little personality. One thing is
for sure, everyone she meets tells her how adorable and
well behaved she is which I of course agree with and Holly
usually sits there with pride – I have a sneaky feeling
she knows how special she is!! It is an absolute pleasure
having Holly beside me and we have yet to have a trip out
without a handful of people asking what holly does or telling
me how lovely she is; much to Dad’s relief as it has
resulted in less shopping time!! I already feel safer having
Holly beside me when out and about and I know in time that
security will become far greater.
Holly comes everywhere with me, shopping trips, events including
10 Downing Street and The Houses of Parliament, fundraising
events and granting wishes for seriously ill children. She
is so calm and accepting of her surroundings and is usually
found fast asleep beside me and enjoying the attention from
the people around her.
A year later, she is already beginning to change my life
and we have created a very special partnership. When i look
back on the last year, I realise how far we have come and
I can’t imagine not having her in my life. This incredible
journey really does become more amazing each day.
It’s been a journey to remember so far; not only have
we created that special partnership together but we have
had the pleasure of coming into contact with those people
who played such a huge part in Holly’s puppy stage,
her training and her sponsorship. Never did I think when
I made contact with East Claydon School in Buckingham (who
sponsored Holly) in December 2011 that we would now be in
regular contact with them; sharing our adventures, sending
parcels of goodies and not forgetting being surprise guests
at their Sports day! Through our contact with East Claydon
School we have made some very special friends who have supported
us so far this year and delighted to have been able to enhance
the children’s learning as they have heard firsthand
what a difference it makes having a dog like Holly.
Holly is so calm and gentle, even children who have previously
been fearful of dogs are now more confident. When she visits
children at schools, her tail is always wagging and her
ears prick up as she hears the children’s voices,
she thoroughly enjoys the attention and being spoilt too!
She is a regular visitor at the prep school my sister teaches
at and is always a huge hit with the children, especially
the younger ones. They are always most impressed when she
shows them how clever she is and goes and finds my blood
sugar kit and brings it back to me!
I knew Holly would transform my life but I don’t think
I realised to what extent. I certainly do now though; she
is my friend, my life saver and my gateway to freedom and
I am very much looking forward to the future ahead with
her by my side every step of the way!
Obviously as you will have
read above, Holly and I are in regular contact with the
school who raised money for Medical Detection Dogs and chose
to name her. East Claydon School is a small infant school
of around 50 pupils and Holly and I have enjoyed sharing
our adventures through letters with the children, writing
individual cards to the children which has made many of
them want to pick up a pencil and write back and most recently
I have just finished making fifty shaped dog cards for Christmas
regular contact with East Claydon School the head teacher
has since devised curriculum plans to be used in schools
for children to learn how dogs can help people with conditions
such as mine. I am unsure as to whether you are aware but
there is a School’s Curriculum Project being held
at the Medical Detection Dogs centre in Great Horwood on
Thursday 31st January 2013 at 4pm for teachers to be able
to meet some of the dogs and find out about how schools
can get involved with the charity. Obviously I understand
you may be unable to attend, but I wanted to make you aware.
I will be speaking during the afternoon and if you are able
to attend, Holly and I would be delighted to meet you.
do apologise for the lengthy email but I am sure now you
are aware of how the two charities have impacted upon my
life in different ways!
do not hesitate to contact me and thank you once again for
supporting Rays of Sunshine and Medical Detection Dogs.
Ambassador & Wish Coordinator
Rays of Sunshine Children's Charity