Medical 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 diseases.

Our Bio-Detection 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.

Not only did she benefitted from these charities Alice now fundraises for other children
(These are my words not hers)

Hello Robert

I 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!

I 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.

Below 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.

Diabetes 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.

The 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.

A 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.

A 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 transplant?

After 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.

I 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.

After 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.

Once 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 best medicines!!

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 complete.

Within 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.

As 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 ill children.
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.

Medical Detection Dogs.
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 for them!

Through 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.

I 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!

Please do not hesitate to contact me and thank you once again for supporting Rays of Sunshine and Medical Detection Dogs.

Best Wishes


Alice Halstead

Special Ambassador & Wish Coordinator
Rays of Sunshine Children's Charity