PDSA

If you’ve picked up our July issue you will have spotted the adorable Annie, the Spitz Klein, on our cover. Annie enjoys taking part in agility with her owner Jackie Hewitt who’s passion for the canine sport hasn’t been halted by a challenging health issue.

Jackie, 35, lives with cystic fibrosis, a genetic disorder which mainly affects the lungs and can cause long term issues such as breathing difficulties. In recent years, Jackie’s health has deteriorated and she is currently awaiting a double lung transplant.

For the past four years, Jackie has also participated in agility with her two dogs, Annie and Murphy, even joining the Paragility UK team for the World Championships in 2017 and 2018, but her health and apparatus used to supply oxygen has made travelling to compete a struggle.

Jackie with Murphy
Jackie with Murphy

Jackie says taking part in agility has helped keep her fitness levels up and so, she reached out to Agility Forever who help support grants for people with health issues who wish to participate in the sport.

Jackie explains, “As my health has deteriorated, and after having to give up work last summer, agility training and competing has become my entire life. I truly believe that it keeps me alive, through giving me a focus and purpose, and also keeping me as fit as possible.

“In January this year, after months of gruelling assessment, I was placed on the waiting list for a double lung transplant. One of the things the hospital drill into you is that despite declining health you have to stay as physically fit as possible in order for them to deem you eligible for transplant. This is because it is an extremely tough operation and the outcomes are much better if you are able to move around as quick as possible afterwards. It is likely I will have a long wait, as the average is 18 months to 2 years. In the meantime I wish to continue caravanning to dog shows and living my best life as much as I can.”

Annie
Annie taking part in Agility

The oxygen tank Jackie was given was bulky and heavy, making it uncomfortable to carry in a backpack and leading to back and chest pain if worn for too long. Refilling from a large tank was also strenuous and even if Jackie doesn’t use the mini tank, the liquid oxygen eventually evaporates by itself, only lasting between 24 to 48 hours.

Game-changer

This is where Forever Agility have been able to help Jackie as she awaits her surgery.

“Amazingly, Forever Agility were able to give me a grant for a lightweight, portable oxygen concentrator. I cannot describe how much of a game-changer this is for me. The concentrator just needs power to work. I have enough batteries I can get almost six hours from in total, or keep swapping and recharging during a camp if I have a hook up, for as long as I need. I can also plug it in and use it overnight instead of the huge one I used to take on holidays. I do not have to arrange for a large holding tank to be delivered wherever I want to stay, which was going to be such a burden and so restrictive.

“I used the concentrator for the entire time during my recent camp and it was brilliant. I can attach it to a belt so the weight is not on my back, with just a strap across my shoulder for stability. I also have another more casual bag that came with it, for normal dog walks or anything else. It is so light it doesn’t cause me a problem.”

concentrator
Since receiving the new concentrator, Jackie has gone on to win two classes.

Founded by Neil Ellis and Ryan Hennessy, Forever Agility is an organisation exclusive to the agility community providing financial support to individuals, families and loved ones that require it. The organisation helps to support people suffering from, or supporting someone, with a long term or new acute illness that is preventing them from taking part in the sport they love with their dog. Forever Agility also help with palliative care initiatives, travel costs for treatment, veterinary bills, costs of mobility aids, insurance costs and more.

Jackie adds, “I’m so grateful to everyone at Forever Agility for this grant, and to everyone who has been fundraising for them. I know it’s early days for the charity but already they are making huge changes to people’s lives. This concentrator has given me freedom to continue doing what I enjoy for as long as possible; freedom to go to camps, go on long dog walks, keep being independent. Above all, it has allowed me to keep training and running my dogs. Thank you Forever Agility, I am Forever Yours.”

To find out more about Forever Agility, contact foreveragility@gmail.com.

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