By Laura Lynott @
A woman who became wheelchair-bound after a freak accident at home – is asking the public to crown her dog the winner of the Nose of Tralee award – after the pooch “saved my life.”
Former nurse Sarah Clifford, 30, originally from Dublin, but now living in Clonakilty, Co Cork, came home from work on May 4, 2014 and slipped on water on the kitchen floor.
In a terrible twist of fate, Sarah, then 28, fell in to a nearby marble fireplace, hitting her head, and her leg buckling under her.
Knocked unconscious, Sarah lay there for 48 hours before she was found. But tragically in that time the damage had been done – and she suffered irreversible paralysis in her leg.
“Mum couldn’t get me on the phone and when my family walked in to the house, I had stopped breathing – they got me within seconds of me dying.”
Sarah had suffered massive injuries from the household fall – she was treated in Cork University Hospital – but it was too late. Because her body couldn’t circulate blood, her muscles were crushed, causing kidney failure and all other organs to shut down.
She was on life support for a month and when she woke up she realised she had not only lost the power in her leg – but her best friend was no longer there to support her.
“It was such a simple fall and now I am paralysed in a wheelchair,” Sarah told the Irish Mirror.
“I woke up and asked where was my best friend and was told she knew about the accident but she hadn’t been to see me.
“I realised afterwards that I was losing friends and even some family and it’s okay, I don’t hold a grudge – I know they just couldn’t handle seeing me in a wheelchair – but still, the accident and everything after, left me feeling very low,” Sarah told the Irish Mirror.
“I was in a very dark place. I loved my job and I could no longer nurse – I couldn’t go clubbing anymore with friends. It was incredibly tough.
“I used to love wearing high heels and I loved glamour – I couldn’t even wear high heels anymore. I was only 28 and it felt like life was over.”
However, new hope and indeed a fresh chance at life came for Sarah when a couple of months after her accident, she had a conversation with her aunt, a dog breeder.
“I decided to get a dog for company,” Sarah said. And when she saw a tiny puppy, Shih Tzu Freya there was an “instant bond.”
Sarah picked up the little caramel and chocolate coloured pooch and was lifted out of the darkness immediately.
“Instantly there was a bond between us and I have not felt an ounce of depression since that day,” Sarah said.
“My family say to me that I’m not grieving properly after what happened. I’m just not sad anymore and that’s because of Freya.
“I appreciate life more now. It’s the little things that matter to me like the birds singing in the morning.
“Freya just made me realise that life is about these little things and who loves you whether it’s a dog or a person, it doesn’t matter as long as you are loved and give love.
“If I’m sick, she will lie by my bed and she will not move. She will wait and pine and pine until I get up.
“I lost a lot of muscle power in the accident so I’m very weak but if I am about to fall, Freya will jump up to stop me.
“She is so quick on her feet and she is big for her breed.”
Freya is also able to press an alarm bell when Sarah does fall, and she barks to alert the young woman’s neighbours.
The dog collects the clothes from the washing machine, and she even acts as a mini furry bedside nurse to her owner at night.
“When I’m asleep, I sometimes dream someone is stabbing my leg because I still have pain in it. I’m in agony, but Freya gently paws my face until I wake up to know to take pain killers. She just knows I’m suffering and wants to help – she’s amazing.”
And as well as helping Sarah overcome her disability, the little dog also helps put a smile on her owner’s face every single day.
“Freya saved my life,” Sarah said. “She saved me from depression. People say the test of good friends are those that are there for you through the bad times.
“I’ve been through bad times in my life and friends where there. But when I almost died, some of my friends weren’t there for me.
“I think that’s the test of true friendship – and that’s why Freya is my very best friend.”
Help Sarah’s little furry friend Freya become the Nose of Tralee by voting for the caring pooch here https://www.wishpond.com/lp/1756154/entries/124510490
The winner and runner up will be announced on August 22.