It's amazing the difference two months can make.

Just ask Rotorua's Alana Portsmouth who, mere weeks ago, was in Sydney where a neurosurgeon was placing a shunt in her brain to drain excess spinal fluid that was putting pressure on her spinal cord.

That was her second trip across the ditch this year, the first was a 10-week stay during which she had a number of tests that culminated in surgery to mend a spinal fluid leak.

Her "head problems" as Portsmouth puts them, are a result of being rear-ended while on her way to see her mechanic in 2015.


Initial consequences of the whip-lash injury were dizziness, light-headedness and headaches, and all got worse as time went on, to the point Portsmouth was only able to function for half a day.

"Things have improved a lot since having the shunt put in," Portsmouth said.

"Although I have had four shunt adjustments [to find the right pressure] the symptoms I was experiencing have lessened enormously."

The injury, along with the fact Portsmouth has hyper mobility syndrome, means she has issues with her balance.

"Hyper mobility syndrome means my joints dislocate or partly dislocate of their own accord. One of my knees has dislocated somewhere between 200 and 300 times since I first started having problems with it years ago."

She had surgery in an attempt to rectify the knee but said it was not successful.

"I think the worst thing with having these injuries/conditions, is that I lost my independence a long time ago. Even when I'm feeling good, I still need someone to accompany me wherever I'm going or whatever I'm doing."

But all that is about to change.

At the beginning of October Portsmouth will have a canine companion named Gus as her new best friend.

"Gus is a service dog, trained specifically for bracing. He will be around to make sure I don't fall."

She has been waiting for a service dog for a long time and Gus became available after what she understands, was the failing health of his previous owner.

"I think they had the choice of keeping Gus as a family pet or returning him to service work and they chose the latter, which is an incredibly honourable and lovely thing to do."

Portsmouth currently has two cats to whom she is very attached. "I am so excited about getting Gus, he's going to make such a difference in my life and allow me to take back most of the independence I have lost."

About to undertake Recharge – a three week rehabilitation programme at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Portsmouth will head to Auckland once that is completed to begin her training with Gus.

"Between feeling better, the rehabilitation programme and getting Gus, there are so many good things I have to look forward to when, only a few months ago all I could see were obstacles."