Who's a clever boy then Grandmother says parrot saves her life by waking her when she stops breathing in her sleep
Barbara Smith-Schafer, 62, has sleep apnoea, which causes her to stop breathing and can lead to heart attack and stroke
If she nods off during the day, her parrot Dominic flaps and pecks to wake her up

Brainy parrot is also BI-LINGUAL and can speak English and German



19:31 GMT, 12 December 2012

A grandmother claims her parrot has saved her life after she developed a life-threatening illness that stops her breathing while asleep.

Barbara Smith-Schafer, 62, says the bird wakes her up by frantically flapping his wings and gnawing her shoulder.

Even more astonishingly, Dominic, a seven-year-old African Grey, is also bi-lingual, and can speak English and German, she says.

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Not so bird-brained: Barbara with her loyal parrot Dominic, who flaps and gnaws her shoulder to wake her when she nods off

Not so bird-brained: Barbara with her loyal parrot Dominic, who flaps and gnaws her shoulder to wake her when she nods off

Mrs Smith-Schafer, from Skegness, Lincolnshire, suffers from sleep apnoea, an illness that stops her breathing when she is asleep.

It can put a strain on the heart and cause serious health conditions such as stroke.

The pensioner first noticed something was wrong in 2009, when she brought Dominic indoors after he was being bullied by another of her seven pet parrots.

Sleep apnoea is characterised by loud
and heavy snoring, which she says alerted Dominic to the problem.

African Grey parrot Dominic is also bi-lingual, and can speak English and German

African Grey parrot Dominic is also bi-lingual, and can speak English and German

She told MailOnline: 'I
wondered why he kept sitting on my shoulder and pecking at me.

'At first I was quite annoyed – he kept waking me up and I found it embarrassing as he would also mimic my snoring.

'But he
must have realised something was wrong and was trying to keep me awake.'

'He has kept me alive. He really is one in a million.'

that's not the end of Dominic's talents. The exotic bird also speaks
German after learning some words from her German-born husband Bernhard –
although this has led to some embarrassing moments.

'My husband would sometimes say 'oh scheisse' when he was on the computer, and Dominic started saying it.

'If visitors heard him I would pretend he was talking about how nice it was outside.'

Dominic, who could live to 60, has also helped Barbara tackle her fear of birds.

'The other parrots are really my husbands,' the mother-of-three said

will feed them if I have to but otherwise I don't go near them. But
with Dominic it is different. He liked me straight away because I was a

'He sits on my
shoulder during meal times and really likes peas and sweetcorn. He will
be getting an extra special Christmas box this year, he really is a

Barbara was diagnosed with sleep apnoea in 2009 after suffering from nocturnal incontinence.

was getting up three to four times a night having wet myself.


The NHS suggests the following lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of OSA :

Losing weight if you are overweight or obese
Limiting your alcohol consumption and avoiding alcohol during the eveningQuitting smoking if you smoke; learn more in stop smoking. Avoiding the use of sleeping tablets and tranquillisersNot sleeping on your back because this can make snoring worse

'I thought
that I had something wrong with my bladder and at first doctors
were looking at Botox, but then one American doctor said it could be
sleep apnoea, which I had never heard of before.'

visit to an overnight clinic confirmed that Mrs Smith-Schafer did have
the condition. Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) is a potentially
life-threatening sleep disorder. It causes a person's airway to collapse
during sleep, obstructing breathing for pauses of 10 seconds or more.

This can occur several times in the night and leaves sufferers exhausted
as it jolts them out of deep sleep. It also puts a strain on the heart
and can lead to serious conditions including stroke.

also explains why the former canteen-worker had suffered with
extreme tiredness for so long. She had found herself drifting off even
when she was standing up and pitched headfirst into the coffee table. .

a result she had broken her nose five times along with suffering a
fractured shoulder and other bumps and bruises.

Mrs Smith-Schafer has now been prescribed a Philips CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway
Pressure) machine, which provides a gentle flow of air
pressure through her nose using a mask. The air pressure prevents airway
collapse, allowing her to breathe freely during sleep.

'For the first time in a long time, I feel like I can see light
at the end of the tunnel, and have got some of my mobility back after years of
feeling too tired to get off the couch,' she said.

Mrs Smith-Schafer now uses a Philips CPAP machine at night, which keeps her airways open

Mrs Smith-Schafer now uses a Philips CPAP machine at night, which keeps her airways open

She now finds she doesn't nod off so often during the day, which means Dominic can take a step back from guard duty.

'I’m grateful to
Dominic for keeping an eye on me, but I certainly won’t miss the painful alarm
calls or his mocking my snoring,' she said.

Mr Michael
Oko, Consultant ENT Surgeon and Sleep Apnoea Specialist at Pilgrim
Hospital, Lincolnshire, who diagnosed Mrs Smith-Schafer, said: 'All too
often, chronic snoring is viewed as a harmless phenomenon, albeit an
extremely annoying one for the snorer’s bed-partner.

for up to one in five who do snore, the cause will be OSA, which if
left untreated can lead to significant cardiovascular damage and hypoxia
of the brain.

for those of us without the helping hand of a uniquely talented parrot,
there are some highly effective treatments, including lifestyle and
behaviour changes, CPAP therapy, mandibular advancement devices and

'If you experience heavy snoring and suffer significant fatigue and tiredness, it’s important that you report it to your doctor immediately.'

Sleep apnoea has traditionally been viewed as a male disease, but a recent study has suggested that among women
aged 20-44, up to one quarter now suffer from it, a figure which
rises to more than half in women aged between 45 and 54, and 75 per cent
in women aged between 55 and 70.

'More women should go and get checked,' Mrs Smith-Schafer said.

'I thought it was my bladder but Dominic knew otherwise. I wish I had his brains.'

For more information about sleep disorders visit the Sleeping Disorders Centre's website

VIDEO: Shaq attacks his Sleep Apnea:

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