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I am writing for Kiernan my 9 year old son a type 1 diabetic. At age 6 he was diagnosed with diabetes. My husband and I thought we could manage his needs but in the last year we have experienced two seizures with Kiernan. Have you ever felt powerless? We didn’t till this last year. Holding your child in your arms after a seizure and having them look thru you is difficult, but having to let them convulse on the floor or on their bed is devastating. If you have a minute I would like to explain our need:
Kiernan’s first seizure was on a Wednesday at 12:30am in November 2012. Thank God it was not on Tuesday night because Stuart (my husband) would have been at work. Stuart and I were sleeping and we awoke to the oddest sound. A monkey howling, a sound I will never forget. Stuart goes in and flips on the light to Kiernan’s room and his first reaction is Kiernan is possessed by a demon. His little body was rigid, he was convulsing and his eyes were rolled back in his head and his eye lids were flittering and that sound. The sound of little lungs being squeezed by their own diaphragm exhaling every last bit of air and the sucking sound as he inhaled like someone having the wind knocked out of them repeatedly. We didn’t know what to do except roll him on his side. Stuart cleared everything away and I called 911 and we wait for the paramedics to arrive. It took them 1 ½ hours to get Kiernan stable enough to be transported to the hospital. It was devastating to call your child’s name and to have them look right thru you because he is out of it and you can’t do anything about it.
We had a scare and still thought we had a handle on this diabetes thing. Then on a Saturday morning Stuart had gotten up early made some coffee, emptied the dishwasher and because he was making noise he close our bedroom door. Stuart decided to go grocery shopping early so he could do something fun with all of us instead of doing the grocery shopping on such a beautiful day. He kissed me and said “I’m going to the grocery store; I’ll only be gone about an hour. Why don’t you sleep in and I’ll wake you when I get back. Love you, see you in a few.” He closed the door on his way out. Stuart made a mistake that haunts me, closing doors. I awoke at 9am to Stuart screaming “Michelle” (you could hear the terror in his tone) “Michelle!!”, I jump up and ran to the kitchen. Stuart had Kiernan in his arm, limp like a rag doll, and vomit dribbling out of the corner of his mouth. Kiernan had gone low after Stuart left. My door was closed and I didn’t hear Kiernan rummaging around in the kitchen. In his altered state Kiernan was looking for something to bring up his blood sugar, unfortunately all he found was sugar free liquorish not the juice that might have stopped the low blood sugar. Kiernan was still chewing when the seizure took hold so there was bright red liquorish all over his face and the kitchen floor. We don’t know how long Kiernan had been on the floor. I run to get his Glucagon Kit and handed it to Stuart and then called 911. Do you know how hard it is to administer glucagon because of the large gauge needle that comes with the kit? Do you know glucagon makes people nuisance? Kiernan becomes violently nuisance for several hours after the shot that saves his life. The recovery after glucagon administration takes many hours at Doernbeckers; thank God for Doernbeckers.
These days I cannot sleep with the door closed to my room or to Kiernan’s room. What if he makes a sound and needs me and I cannot hear it? It scares me so. I know that having a service dog will not prevent him from having low blood sugar which causes seizures but I believe a service dog could help identify low blood sugar before he has a seizure. I do not know how long Kiernan lay on the kitchen floor; thank God he landed on his side because he was vomiting. If he had landed on his back he could have aspirated. I was just down the hallway in bed. After his seizure Kiernan had back problems. Kiernan felt pain getting out of bed and constantly complained about his back. We finally took Kiernan to a chiropractor and found out that Kiernan had convulsed so hard on the floor he had twisted his back out of alignment which was the cause of his pain. If we had a service dog I believe he or she would have alerted me sooner.
If you don’t know the role a service dog plays with their diabetic companion it is special. The dog is ‘in tune’ with their companion. The dog spends their days with their child traveling everywhere with them and sleeps with them. We hope to raise the money to bring Kiernan home a special companion. This companion would help me and my husband manage Kiernan’s health by making the minute observations we can’t that would prevent the seizures that have scared us and pose a substantial threat to his health.
Diabetes service dogs begin their training after 6 weeks when they have been weaned from their mother. The training involves more than just knowing what low or high blood sugar smells like on their human companions breath. Service dogs require extensive training. The dogs have to pass many behavioural test to make sure they can accompany their companion out in public. The dogs must know how to react to traffic, children crowds and loud places. Service dogs must be sociable with other pets and able to handle new situations. Diabetic service dogs will take almost one year to train. Teaching a dog to roll over, play dead or shake hands takes patience and love; teaching them to alert to a low sugar scent is using multiple alerts to make their companion aware of a change in their blood sugars. Regular vet care, feeding and caring for the service dogs in training for their first year is costly even for 501(c) non-profit groups. Considering the time and specialized skills required for a diabetic service dog training a price of $15,000 seems high but isn't the health of your young child who is too young to know their own body worth it?
Thank you for taking the time to read our predicament. If you are able to help I appreciate it. If you are not I still send you blessings and pray you don’t have to experience our situation.
Michelle, Stuart and Kiernan
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