Child’s best friend: dog alerts family to girl’s seizures

Great Dane gently holds Brianna against a wall until someone comes to help her

 Brianna Lynch (3) who suffers from epilepsy pictured at her home in Killaloe with her Great Dane Charlie. Photograph: Arthur Ellis

Brianna Lynch (3) who suffers from epilepsy pictured at her home in Killaloe with her Great Dane Charlie. Photograph: Arthur Ellis


A Great Dane is helping the Co Clare family of a three year-old girl with epilepsy to respond to her frequent seizures.

Charlie the dog can detect the onset of a seizure for Brianna Lynch 20 minutes before the start of the episode.

Brianna suffers from different forms of epileptic seizures, many of which happen at night.

When Charlie detects that Brianna is about to have a seizure he will hold her gently against a wall until someone comes to help her.

Brianna’s mother Arabella Scanlan describes the dog’s sixth sense, which it has acquired without any without any training, as “amazing”.

“It is frightening because her seizures tend to happen at night. I don’t tend to sleep very well because I am conscious of what might happen.

“For Brianna’s first seizure, she got very stiff and stopped breathing. She was resuscitated twice in the hospital. She went blue and stopped breathing. I didn’t know what a seizure was and what was happening to her,” Ms Scanlan explains.

“She is quite a complex child: she forgets to breathe and then goes into seizure. She has gone through eight different types of medicine and it now looks like she needs brain surgery.”

You learn to live with it. “A lot of her seizures are at night. You will know by the way she is breathing if you can’t hear here, she is gone into seizure. “She is never out of anyone’s sight on a 24 hour basis.

“We had incidents where she falls to the floor and hits her head so you have to be mindful of that,” she adds.

Her four other children Farrah (17), Harry (15), Mia (13) and Rose (11) and her husband, Brian, are aware medication has to be administered to Brianna within two minutes of any seizure.

“Charlie is so sensitive to her needs, if the other dogs get boisterous, he will stand by her side to ensure she doesn’t get knocked over. We know when he is acting strange, she is going to have a seizure,” she says.

Ms Scanlan has now joined forces with Deirdre Cullinan from Ahane, whose daughter, Mia (3) is also being treated for epilepsy, to raise € 18,000 to purchase a new Ambulatory EEG machine that has been sanctioned by the University Hospital, Limerick (UHL).

The two women met in UHL while their daughters were getting treatment and are on a mission to buy this machine.

Ms Scanlan is hosting a Fun Ride with the help of the East Clare Harriers Hunt this Sunday, October 13th, starting at noon at Smith O’Brien’s GAA field.

Acknowledging that times are tough for people, she is seeking donations no matter how small on the day.

With one in 115 people suffering from epilepsy, the EEG machine will benefit a large number of children in the mid-west.

The mobile recording unit can be worn for 24 hours, which significantly increases the chance of identifying the area of the brain where a seizure is happening.

With a brain’s electrical activity fluctuating from second to second, routine EEG’s only provide a 20 to 40 minute sample of this activity. There is only one EEG ambulatory machine in Dublin, which has a large waiting list.