Sunday, January 14, 2007

Woman suffering from seizures gets all the help that she needs and more...

Margot Hogan of Benton called not too long ago, wanting to know if she could talk to me about a fund-raising effort she has planned. Though such efforts usually are not one of my favorite subjects for columns, I told her to send me information by e-mail and then we could talk.

She did me one better. She wrote me a letter telling me her story. (Regular readers know I am a romantic advocate of letter-writing, even if I survive via e-mail.)

Margot began having seizures about three years ago. First, she contracted spinal meningitis. then it developed into encephalitis. She has had hundreds of them, some times several in succession. She said she tried to work, even earning her certified nursing assistant license, but was unable to keep a job (at Arkansas Health Center and Saline Memorial) because of her seizures. When it was at its worst, her daughter, Holly Edwards, now 21, quit her job and stayed home with her for a while. Eventually, though, Holly moved to Versailles, Ky., where her father lives and she works as a CNA.

Margot filed for SSI, getting help after 4 1/2 months, and stayed at home, near Harmony Grove School, where her son, Cody Edwards, played baseball. Cody brought home a golden Labrador he bought from Coach Lane Chancellor. As often happens,, she said, the task of caring for the dog, Chipper (after baseball player Chipper Jones) or Chip, fell to her, the mother. She and the dog became constant companions. She said she noticed that they seemed to have a special bond after she twice had a seizure when she was at home with him.

“Once, I was on my way to the mailbox and had one. When I woke up, I was lying on the ground and Chip had his head lying across me, like he was protecting me.

“He never left my side if I had a seizure - and I had hundreds of them with him. Eventually, he began to try and alert me when I was about to have one. ... We had a bond that allowed him to sense when I was a few minutes from having one.”

The family went to Bandera, Texas, over Thanksgiving to visit Margot's sister and her family. While they were there, Chip was struck by a car and killed.

“I was devastated,” Margot said. “I was so used to having Chip there with me that I lost all my confidence.

“My fiance, Mike Brown, said, ‘God has things happen for a reason. We just don't know the reason sometimes.”

Margot began going to Heber Springs during the week while Mike was working on a construction job there. She met a woman who told her about Southwest Service Dogs, a group that trains animals for people who need them, including seizure dogs, who help people in the same situation as Margot.

She has applied for a dog and begun talking with Kate Morgan of Fort Smith, who trains the dogs. The group does not guarantee every applicant a dog, but tries to find a match. Applicants who receive dogs are not asked to pay for their animals.

But the group does operate by donations only. Because SWSD is trying to assist her, Margot said she has decided to raise money for them.

“It's the least I can do,” Margot said. “A dog and its training can cost between $10,000-20,000, so I thought I would try to raise money for them while I am waiting. I may never get a dog. It depends on whether they find a dog that bonds with me. There are a number of steps to go through.

“But they are trying to help me, so I decided that I should help them in the meantime.”

Information on Southwest Service Dogs is available on the group's Web site, The address for sending donations is listed there.

As her story continues, we may check in occasionally on Margot and her progress.

Mike Dougherty is city editor of the Courier. His column appears Sunday and Thursday.


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