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Archive for the ‘Reflections on being diabetic’ Category

In My Humble Opinion

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Dear Reader,

At this time of year we are all asked to donate to many different non-profit organizations or charities like the Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, JDRF, the ADA, the Sierra Club, the local food bank, etc.  Many of these we are extremely passionate about – my favorite being, Early Alert Canines (EAC).

Before donating, I ask you to please consider the impact your donation has on a small organization versus a large, well-established one. For example, a $2000 donation to EAC covers approximately 1% of our entire working budget (and provides 10% of the cost of a dog), where the same donation to one of the larger organizations is an unnoticeable fraction of a percent of operating or research costs.

In addition, many smaller non-profits cater to current needs and relief, and rely more upon individual donors than the larger organizations, which have greater access to government and corporate sponsorships and grants.

I ask you to take this into consideration when you make your gifts.

Sincerely,

Hilary

 

 

Preparing for a Lecture

As I sit here preparing for tomorrow’s lecture on Diabetic Alert Dogs (DADs), I can’t help but marvel at myself and muse about what has caused me to change — I used to be so shy and reserved; and now I am preparing to take the podium, once again, to talk about diabetic alert dogs, Early Alert Canine (EAC), and my life with my diabetic alert dog, Rainie.   These changes must be due to passion!

 I am passionate about telling the world about diabetic alert dogs and the safety and sense of companionship they bring.  And Early Alert Canines!  There is so much to tell about this organization also.  EAC provides these life saving and life changing dogs to diabetic children as well as teens and adults.  Affecting the lives of families with diabetic children is what excites me the most.  This is why I became involved with EAC – because of their intention of making DADs available to families with young diabetics, and because of my memories of growing up with diabetes.  I remember when I was too young, or my blood sugar too low, for me to say, “I need help!” During the 56 years I’ve been diabetic I’ve experienced all sorts of changes in technology, beliefs, and protocols; but I can easily admit that nothing has changed my life as positive a way as Rainie has.  I want to share this with the world.

 Diabetic alert dogs give diabetics of every age the advanced warning of quickly changing blood sugars, so steps may be taken so dangerous situations may be avoided.  By doing their jobs, the dogs may help to reduce fear, increase emotional and blood sugar stability, increase the overall sense of peace-of-mind, and provide the sort of acceptance only a dog can.  I want to do what I can to educate the public about DADs, and, help change the lives of people living with and influenced by diabetes…

 …So tomorrow, I ascend the podium.

What else can a diabetic alert dog do? (As well as an introduction)

Will work for  Cheerios (but I'd prefer a steak!)

Will work for
Cheerios
(but would prefer a steak!)

“Hi.  My name is Darwin.  I am a Diabetic Alert Dog.  I alert this girl’s parents when she is having a high or a low blood sugar.  The parents reward me with Cheerios but I think I deserve a STEAK.  After all I save the girl’s life all the time.  If you agree, please like this.  The girl’s parents said id I get 10.000 lkes I get a STEAK.  Thank you!”  ~~ This photo was originally posted on Face Book; and although I’ve written about Darwin in the past, if you haven’t had the opportunity to meet this regal, layed-back, newly graduated black Lab and his 4- year- old charge, please check into their new blog (hilariously written from Darwin’s perspective, and voiced by his human mom.) DarwintheDAD.com

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Laura and Darwin just graduated from EAC as a certified diabetic alert dog team.  Since Laura, being only 5, is too young to be Darwin’s designated handler, “Team Darwin” includes her parents also.

It is impossible for me to express how the life of a family with a young diabetic child changes once a DAD (Diabetic Alert Dog) enters the household.  Many parents have said that they have a huge sense of relief knowing they have yet another team member to watch over their child, in a way that they cannot.  The dogs help bring a sense of peace of mind, increased safety, caring, companionship and friendship to all, not just the immediate family.

Because Darwin has been trained to have two distinctive alerts, one for highs and another for low/dropping blood sugars, Darwin’s alerting is also allowing Laura to identify the sensations of high and low blood sugars, give them appropriate names, and verbalize the feelings.  This is an incredible and unforeseen gift!  The world of how these dogs help us continues to evolve.

Hooray for “Team Darwin!”  And, as for my alert dog Rainie, I believe her preferred  reward for alerting me would be either pumpkin pie, or graham crackers with peanut-butter.

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Will work for  Cheerios (but I'd prefer a steak!)

Will work for
Cheerios
(but I’d prefer a steak!)

 

A Mother’s Letter (and, An EAC Success Story)

Laura and Darwin

Laura and Darwin

Early Alert Canines has just finished another team training where two adults with diabetes were placed with blood sugar alert dogs, as well as one family with a four year old daughter with diabetes.

The young family has been home with their dog, Darwin, for almost one week.  Face Book postings are telling the wonderful story of how Darwin is reveling in his job of alerting to high and low blood sugar changes.  Sometimes when a dog first goes home with his new partner, it takes a while for the dog to adjust to the new routine, new people, and new environment.  NOT DARWIN!  In the few days he has been in his new ‘forever home’ he has alerted the mother of his new young charge, Laura, at pre-school, at home, during soccer practice and during dance class.  Good boy, Darwin!

I would like to share this ‘post’ written by Laura’s mother, explaining how difficult it is to regulate a young child’s diabetes, and what a gift Darwin has already been in their lives:

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It was brought to my attention that with all the posts recently about how great Darwin is at helping us manage Laura’s type one diabetes, as well as posting about highs and lows, that people might perceive it that we didn’t have control without him. First of all, T1D Managment is an art, not a science. The body is always changing and so do insulin needs. When Laura is getting sick, we know ahead of time from wacky numbers. When she’s stressed, we can tell from the numbers. We are constantly changing insulin ratios to try to match her insulin needs. As you can imagine, it’s a daily battle that is hit and miss. Large swings in the numbers is normal, while not ideal. One has to be most concerned about lows and chronic highs.

Prior to having Darwin we would have to rely on trying to read the signs of highs and lows from Laura’s behavior and mood. She’s 4. Sometimes a 4 year olds behavior is similar to a diabetic having a low. With Darwin, he smells a difference and he can let us know. Laura can tell us if she’s low if she’s relaxed. But in the soccer situation, she showed no visible signs of a low nor did she mention anything. Darwin helped us intercept that before it got very dangerous.

We have also used a continuous glucose monitor that works with her pump. The CGM can give us an indication if she’s on the way up or down. It’s not 100% accurate and there are delays in the readings. There is a 20-30 minute lag time generally. Darwin will, in most cases, be able to catch a low before it happens. The CGM is also one more piece of equipment Laura has to have punctured into her. As a mom, if I can get similar or better information from a black fuzzy doggie rather than a sensor stuck in her I will use the dog.

That being said, new technology is always in the pipeline for T1D management. When the new stuff comes out, Laura will have it.

In future posts I will be more clear about how Darwin has changed the way we handle things.

Type one diabetes sucks. I will use anything and everything to make sure Laura is as happy and healthy as she can be. For now and for ever.

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T1D means Type 1 Diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is an autoimmune disease in which a person’s pancreas stops producing insulin, a hormone that enables people to get energy from food. It occurs when the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, called beta cells. While its causes are not yet entirely understood, scientists believe that both genetic factors and environmental triggers are involved. Its onset has nothing to do with diet or lifestyle. There is nothing you can do to prevent T1D, and—at present—nothing you can do to get rid of it.  (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation)

A person who has been diagnosed with T1D must take insulin in order to say alive.

Some Doctors’ Offices Truly Need a Dog

1001168_10151459887301837_453287617_nGoing to the retinal doctor’s* office has always been emotionally taxing.  Upon walking in the door, I am embraced by the overwhelming pall of depression, fear and despair, broken by the occasional glimmer of hope or relief by someone who has just received a ‘good’ report.  Patients, usually with someone there to support them, sit with their heads down, looking at the floor, or with their nose to their Kindle.  Even Rainie tends to become subdued by the general demeanor of the office.

But things quickly change once people become aware that there is a dog in the room.  As we walk in, the medical assistants will often call out, “Hello Rainie! How’s my girl!”  Upon hearing this, heads raise and smiles begin to form.  As I take a seat, the questions begin: “What kind of dog is she?”, “What does she do for you?”, and, invariably, “May I pet her?” – which I allow.

I can feel the collective dread melt as the ‘dog stories’ and memories are shared; and some of these stories are recalled from ‘long-ago’ since I am usually the youngest in the room.  As the often-fragile arms reach out, Rainie will approach and ‘greet’ those who are willing, sometimes resting her head in their laps.  The fears associated with vision-loss are replaced by brightness.

Even the doctor says that the office really needs a dog.

 

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*Retinologists are physicians who specialize in treating disorders of the back of the eye – the retina.  Most of their patients are being seen for diseases such as macular edema, retinopathy, glaucoma, detached retina, or other severe vision issues. I have been being checked for diabetic eye changes (diabetic retinopathy is one of the major side effects of long-term diabetes) since I the mid 1970s.  The emotions in each office I’ve ever been to have been the same.

Dizziness and Disorientation

IMG_2620This virus has had a hold of me for about three days now.  Again, I woke up dizzy, with my blood sugar way too high.  Rainie had woken me up in the middle of the night for me to check, and my meter read more than 300.  Even when I got up four hours later, after giving myself many units of insulin in the wee hours of the morning, my blood sugar was basically unchanged.  And I’m dizzy!  Argh!  So, once again, I gave myself my more insulin, ate a light breakfast, and had my husband drop us off at Rainie’s and my latest favorite walk – a beautiful Redwood forest a few miles from where we live.  I figured that even though I’m not feeling good,  there’s no reason Rainie shouldn’t have a good time.

As we descended the steep trail through the trees toward the river, Rainie alerted me.  Finally!  My blood sugar was beginning to come down.  Good girl.  At the bottom of the path, about 20 minutes later, she alerted me again – my blood sugar was finally into the ‘safe’ zone.  Good girl.  As she was romping with another dog in the river, a very wet Rainie ran up to me, alerting again.  I discovered my blood sugar was falling rapidly.  In fact, too fast at this point – between the dizziness and the exercise, I had no idea.  Good, good girl!  I ate some glucose tablets (I hate them, but they work), and called Rainie to leave her friend and follow me back up the trail.  A few seconds later (well, probably a minute) she alerted again.  I still had the taste of glucose in my mouth, but reluctantly tested. My blood sugar had fallen to too dangerously low to be out in the forest by myself.  I was beginning to get worried and confused.  Should I eat more glucose and keep walking?  Or should I eat more glucose and sit down for a while and wait for it to work?  I put 5 more tablets into my mouth, knowing I had about 45 minutes of steep hiking to get to the top of the hill and back into cell phone service.  I proceeded to dizzily plod forward … until Rainie blocked my way.  She would not move or let me by.  When I finally figured I had no choice, I sat down on the ground, AND RAINIE SAT ON TOP OF ME!  She did not let me get up until the glucose had taken a hold and I was back into the ‘safe zone.

Here’s sharing my life with a low blood sugar alert dog with you.  Thank you, Rainie!

Our Three Year Anniversary

DSC04812Today is Rainie’s and my 3rd anniversary as a “Service Dog Team”

So much has happened in those 3 years, because of her

 I can’t imagine life without her!

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