Family fundraises for life-saving pup

The Pakenham Upper man was diagnosed with epilepsy in 2009, aged 32, and has since suffered from tonic clonic seizures which can occur up to 13 times in 24 hours.

By Jessica Anstice

Husband and father of two Adam Hillbrick is on a quest to adopt a seizure alert puppy to assist him and alert his family of oncoming seizures.

The Pakenham Upper man was diagnosed with epilepsy in 2009, aged 32, and has since suffered from tonic clonic seizures which can occur up to 13 times in 24 hours.

Last year, Mr Hillbrick had 54 seizures, seven hospital admissions, twice in an induced coma in ICU and countless paramedic visits to his home.

In 2011 he underwent brain surgery to stop the seizures which worked temporarily but in 2015 his seizures returned.

The community has jumped on board to help Mr Hillbrick and his family raise the $5000 required funds for a ‘Tegan Cobberdog’ seizure alert puppy.

“If we could have the pup alert us to an oncoming seizure, it would allow Adam to get himself into a safe position before the seizure starts,” Mr Hillbrick’s wife Bianca Celima said.

“It would also mean that we could take on some extra hours of work and that Adam would not have to be alone.

“Adam has to walk everywhere or rely on public transport if I am unavailable, the dog could accompany him and give him more independence.”

Depending of the dog selected for Mr Hillbrick, it may be trained to respond by pushing an alarm.

“The pup will be obedience trained as all service dogs require the best manners in public,” Ms Celima said.

“We are hoping through what’s called ‘umbilical bonding’, the dog will learn to respond to chemical smell changes in Adam’s body and alert us, through changed behaviour, a seizure is coming.

“Some dogs are trained to cushion the person’s head throughout the seizure, lick their face to bring them out of an unconscious state or alert someone else in the area. Some dogs can cushion a person’s fall, provide companionship and reassurance.”

Mr Hillbrick’s condition has also taken its toll on his 14-year-old son Chris and one-year-old daughter Evie.

“Adam couldn’t carry our daughter as a newborn and we can’t attend concerts, movies or parties etc with strobe lightning that may cause a seizure,” Ms Celima added.

“I’ve had to stop working as a primary school teacher as Adam can only be left alone for short periods of time.”

Last year Mr Hillbrick dropped Chris off at school before Ms Celima returned home to find him unconscious.

“He was placed in an induced coma in our garage and I was told to call family as it wasn’t looking good,” she said.

“I have picked up part time work in childcare but there are many days I cannot attend due to Adam needing care.

“Adam’s lack of independence saw him become depressed and anxious.”

After 26 years of working, the financial impact has been tough on the family and Mr Hillbrick is finding it difficult to find an employer willing to accept him with his condition.

Mr Hillbrick is currently on WorkCover after having seizures at work.

He was forced to hand in his driver’s licence, he cannot be in water and he was discharged from the Army.

Previous to this he was a Combat Engineer with the Australian Defence Force.

He drove, surfed, competed in triathlons and marathons and was a coordinator of parks and gardens for Baw Baw Shire Council.

“Adam doesn’t get any warning or aura before a seizure. He just drops to the ground from standing or sitting, during the seizure he vomits and loses continence most times,” Ms Celima explained.

“He’s had far too many head injuries to count. Usually Adam’s seizures are weekly or fortnightly. They are frequent and unpredictable.

“After a seizure Adam can sleep for up to 36 hours while his brain resets. This means he misses out on day to day living and chunks of time.”

Ms Celima said the seizure alert pup would change their lives.

“At present we live in fear and uncertainty each day, never knowing what will happen,” she said.

“This dog would have an immediate positive effect and give us hope that Adam can again live more independently and confidently and we could again get our family life back on track.”

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