Roman, Medical Alert Dog

Laila Shekarchian

Amélia Gibbons-Philippon with her medical alert dog, Roman.

At first glance, you wouldn’t be able to tell that junior Amélia Gibbons-Philippon is disabled until you see Roman, her medical alert dog.  

“Most people have an idea in their heads regarding what someone with a disability should look like,” Philippon said. “Without Roman, someone would never guess that I’m disabled.”

Philippon has postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) which inhibits blood flow to the brain and causes her to pass out. The disease limits her ability to do everyday things. 

“I missed a lot of school last year because I couldn’t predict when I was going to pass out,” Philippon said. “If I do pass out and hit my head on something it’s pretty dangerous.”

Being diagnosed with POTS changed everything for Philippon, as she had to give up on doing what she loved, like playing soccer and competing in gymnastics.

“I used to be very active,” Philippon said. “The reality is that I am now much more limited in what I can do safely. I love sports and I’m very sad that I am unable to be as competitive as I once was.”

After doing some research, Philippon pitched her parents the idea of getting an alert dog. 

“It actually didn’t take a lot of convincing my parents,” Philippon said. “Having a dog was a way to give me my freedom back.”

Even before he was trained, Roman could tell something was wrong with Philippon and the two formed an unbreakable bond.

“When he first came home he always seemed to notice when I wasn’t feeling great,” Philippon said. “Before he was fully trained he used to bark out of nowhere. That was his way of saying that there was something wrong.”

Roman is trained to alert Philippon by licking her hand 20 minutes before she passes out. Yet, he has also come up with his own alerts that are more effective. 

“I have been known to ignore his alert in which case he takes my hand into his mouth, normally a few minutes, or seconds before an episode, and drags me to either a chair or to the ground. Sometimes he will try and knock me over, jump up and push me to the ground,” Philippon said. “ To emphasize how incredible he is, he was not trained to do this, that is his own way that he’s decided to help.”