Page last updated at 12:57 GMT, Thursday, 26 November 2009

Dog 'saves' sleep condition woman

Nan Henry and Boris (picture courtesy of
Nan Henry said Boris means "everything" to her

A deaf woman with a sleep condition which stops her breathing says she owes her life to her hearing dog.

Bernadetta Henry, known as Nan, from Llangollen, Denbighshire, suffers from sleep apnoea which she says can stop her breathing up to three times each night.

She says Boris, her six-year-old bichon frise, knows when to rouse her and puts his paws on her chest to wake her up.

Ms Henry, a widow, said: "I believe he's saved my life."

She became deaf following a blood clot and brain haemorrhage more than 20 years ago, and has suffered from sleep apnoea for years.

The second I stop breathing, he puts his paws on my chest to rouse me
Nan Henry

Ms Henry was given Boris as a hearing dog, to alert her to sounds including the fire alarm, telephone and doorbell, and has relied on him since the death of her husband five years ago.

She said: "I have sleep apnoea, which stops my breathing. You can wear a mask but I can't manage it - I can't breathe with it on.

"One night, when I had had Boris less than 12 months, he woke me up. He had his muzzle right down my throat to make me breathe.

"The first time it happened I couldn't believe it. I broke my heart crying - he was forcing me to breathe."

She said Boris now wakes her on a regular basis.

She said: "The second I stop breathing, he puts his paws on my chest to rouse me.

"He's everything to me."

Gemma Walton, of the charity Hearing Dogs, which supplied Boris, said: "I know he means the world to Nan.

"She's very independent, but he just gives her that piece of mind and the confidence to go out and get on with her life.

"He's quite a character and keeps her smiling."

Obstructive sleep apnoea is a respiratory condition in which the throat repeatedly narrows or closes during sleep.

It is estimated that about one in 25 men and one in 50 women, between the ages of 30 and 60, suffer from it.

Severe cases increases the risk of a person suffering high blood pressure, heart attack or stroke.

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