Leeds & West Yorkshire

Dog appeal for Huddersfield boy who could die in his sleep

Benji Bowker in bed Image copyright Justin Bowker
Image caption Mr Bowker said Benji would be reliant on breathing equipment for the rest of his life

The family of a boy with a rare condition which means going to sleep could kill him are raising money for an "alert" dog to watch over him.

Benji Bowker, from Huddersfield, has a rare condition which means he stops breathing when he falls asleep.

The 10-year-old, who also suffered brain damage at birth, is currently monitored through the night by a nurse.

His family told the Huddersfield Examiner a dog would offer him more privacy as he gets older.

Dad Justin said: "When Benji is asleep he is unable to breathe without the help of a machine, and is currently looked after by a nurse, 365 days a year."

He said having a trained medical alert assistance dog would afford Benji more privacy in his teenage years.

However, he said the dog, which would be trained to raise the alarm if there was a problem, would cost about £11,000.

Image copyright Justin Bowker
Image caption For the first two years of Benji's life, his parents took turns being on duty as he slept in case of problems with the machine

The family is also raising money for Benji to have stem cell treatment on the damaged parts of his brain.

Mr Bowker said his son, who loves Bruce Lee films, football and rugby, has short-term memory loss, and is currently working at the level of a five-year-old.

He said the family is worried he will not be able to attend a mainstream secondary school.

Image copyright Justin Bowker
Image caption Mr Bowker said the stem cell treatment for Benji, pictured left, is only available privately in certain countries like Switzerland, Germany and the US

Doctors have told Mr Bowker stem cell treatment could improve Benji's brain function by up to 50/60 per cent.

"Anything we can do to give him a chance of living a more normal life, and fitting in with his peers has to be worth a go," he said.

Image copyright Justin Bowker
Image caption Benji (right) and his brother Daniel pictured with the former Huddersfield Giants player Eorl Crabtree

Mr Bowker said he has been overwhelmed by the response to the fundraising appeal, which has so far raised over £16,000 of the £25,000 needed.

"It's been quite emotional," he said.

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