This Christmas, the Herald is featuring 12 charities which have been chosen to get a $10,000 grant from Auckland Airport as part of its 12 Days of Christmas charity campaign. The $120,000 comes from generous travellers who donate money in globes throughout the airport
When the next second of your life could bring on a crippling seizure, knowing you have someone there to help or save your life is more than comforting.
West Auckland resident Erica Tiedemann. in her 40s, is living with severe epilepsy - a disorder that only showed itself when she was a full-time student studying at university.
"I was absolutely fine, studying psychology ... and suddenly I began having seizures.
"It affected my memory so much. I couldn't study, couldn't drive. I went from being totally independent to dependent.''
Tiedemann is one of a number of Kiwis with epilepsy to have an assist dog that has been specially trained to care for them by the New Zealand Epilepsy Assist Dogs Trust.
The charity trains service dogs to help people who have frequent seizures so they can have independence in mobility and living.
It is one of 12 charities to be gifted $10,000 in Auckland Airport's 12 Days of Christmas initiative this year.
Every dog is trained to suit the needs of their particular client; whether it be to remove a person's glasses during a seizure or to guard their client when they crash to the ground.
Tiedemann's dog, golden retriever Casper, has been taught to stop at a kerb before a road when they are out and about.
"He takes away all the anxiety. It means the world to me.
"I've got so many friends with epilepsy who don't have a dog. Epilepsy is really traumatic for everyone. I can't imagine life without Casper.''
Auckland Airport spokeswoman Helen James said they were happy to support a charity that was helping people get their independence back and access to other opportunities as a result.