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Posts tagged ‘low blood sugar’

“I Told You So!”

IMG_1227If Rainie could talk, I’m sure there are times that she’d be saying, “I told you so!”

This happened again today.  I was up in my ceramics room trying to create feet on the bottoms of some nearly finished bowls when Rainie began alerting.  I sensed she might be right because my balance and depth perception seemed a little bit off.  Upon doing my blood sugar I discovered that I was slowly dropping, so proceeded to eat a snack, and went back to work.  I wanted to push through and get this job done.  The dryness of the clay was just right – not too hard and not too soft.  But despite my intentions, she kept alerting!  I felt fine.  I had just eaten and needed to get my ceramics work done!  That was until I cut right through the semi-dry bowl with a semi-sharp tool.  She was right.  I hadn’t sensed that  my blood sugar had continued to drop and I wasn’t feeling how unstable I’d become.

As I tossed down my tools and took off my apron in pure frustration, Rainie flopped down on the floor with an exasperated sigh which loudly stated, “I TOLD YOU SO!”  

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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

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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!)

 

Rainie’s Been Sick

DSCF0817Rainie’s been sick.  A ‘hot-spot’ had gone awry, blooming into a huge systemic infection.  My rambunctious, energetic, smiling girl had become a small ball of fur with her tail tucked, holding her ears flat, hiding in any small space, lethargic, not following me as she usually does, not wanting to go for walks, and not alerting – just sleeping and watching with those big, brown, questioning eyes.

Finally, she’s coming back to life.  She must be feeling better. Late last night she brought me one of her dolls, and this morning she ‘tossed’ a ball in my direction and scampered to get it after I rolled it across the floor.  And, she’s beginning to alert again.  It’s so nice to have her back!

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(2 days later)  With every day, more of her personality appears.  She’s becoming her true impish self.  This morning I was awakened at 5a.m. with ‘the tigger pounce’.  This is when she wakes me up by jumping on me, thus, letting me know I need to check my blood sugar.  And, of course, she was right.   (My blood sugar was 85.)  Sometimes I feel like I want to be annoyed, being woken up so early; but how can I?  She’s doing her job with a big exuberant smile.

And on our walk, more of a gentle stroll, really, Rainie raised her nose high in the air to smell the breeze.  I could see her nostrils twitching as she caught whatever scent she was zeroing in on.  She slowly followed her nose, turning her head, then body around, until she looked straight at me, bounded to me, and alerted.  Yep, I was dropping.

As I sit here typing, someone with a wagging tail is coquettishly flaunting her favorite ‘stick’ at me, trying to inviting me to play.  Oh, it’s good to have her back!

( If you haven’t met Rainie yet, she is my diabetic alert dog.  She has been trained to identify the metabolic odors a diabetic produces when their blood sugar drops rapidly. ~~~~~~~ And her favorite ‘stick’ is actually a 2-year-old Nylabone chew bone that she carries around with pride and joy.)

Making Magic – Early Alert Canines’ “1st Annual 2-4-1 Walk”

At the starting line EAC's 1st Annual 2-4-1 Walk

At the starting line
EAC’s 1st Annual 2-4-1 Walk

Have you ever had that feeling from deep within that you know you are helping to create something magical?  This feeling truly came to light for me this past Saturday at the Early Alert Canines “1st Annual 2-4-1 Walk” (2 feet, 4 paws, 1 cause!).  About 75 people, escorted by 15 dogs, came together as a community to share their support for EAC, and show their enthusiasm for training diabetic alert dogs.

As we walked around the small lake, admiring the fountain and enjoying the sunshine, we talked.  Here are a few of the stories that were shared with me:

Lalu, a very vocal black lab-golden mix that was teamed with her young (about 6 year-old) partner and her family in April, alerted from across the gym as the little girl’s blood sugar sky-rocketed while she was performing on the uneven parallel bars at a gymnastics event.  This was somewhat embarrassing since Lalu’s vocal volume increases with the intensity of her alerting.

Again, Lalu, who is terrified by water, alerted while her young charge was swimming.  Lalu’s alert for dropping blood sugar is to raise her paw and touch.  As Lalu was alerting, she was walking toward the pool on three legs as she kept her ‘alerting’ paw raised, calling the whole time.

Jedi, was also placed with his new family in April (his young diabetic responsibility is 7). He is the classroom’s favorite ‘visitor’ each day he is bought to work there with his new ‘mom’.  Apparently, all the kids were incredibly disappointed when “Just the Mom!” came on their field trip to the zoo, with no Jedi.  (Bringing a service dog to the zoo might evoke the “pray instincts” in the caged animals.  It is recommended they not be taken to places with wild animals – even caged.)

Both Jedi’s and Lalu’s ‘parents’ expressed how much comfort is having the dogs.  They said there are no words to express what it’s like to have another set of eyes (or nose in this case) looking over their diabetic children.  And the peace of mind knowing they’ll be told about potential problems before a true emergence happens, even if it means being awakened at night, is a great relief.

On a different note, it was great to hear that one of the EAC trainers is making an ‘office-call’ to try to help resolve an alerting issue that is arising at someone’s work.

Even us “old –times” shared stories of our own: my dog, Rainie, alerting me while on the beach; and the quiet assurance provided by Norm to his T1D ‘dad’ who lives alone.  And Jason, is full of stories of how “Eli” alerts him while he’s traveling for work – regardless if it’s on a plane, in a restaurant or hotel, etc. And, yes, Eli even alerts at home and in the car.

It was an incredible honor/pleasure/moment-of-pride for me to see so much participation and enthusiasm for what EAC does.  I want to thank our ‘new recruits’ (dogs in the process of being scent trained), the families fostering them, the newly placed teams, the training/office staff, us “old-timers” and everyone else who have ever supported EAC or donated to our fundraiser.  I hope that everyone realizes that you, too, are helping to create some magic.

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Link

Hot Off the Press: EAC’s “The Scentinel”

Hot Off the Press: EAC’s “The Scentinel”

Here is the May 2013 edition of Early Alert Canines‘ “The Scentinel”, a newsletter full of information on diabetes, dogs, and diabetic alert dogs.

There is one correction:  In the section called “Vet Notes” the medication called Capstar should have been Comfortis.  Both are oral flea pills but the Capstar lasts 24 hours and the Comfortis lasts 30 days.

~ Enjoy!

How do you teach “Compassion” and “Empathy”?

IMG_2538When I was working in the hospital as a nurse, I was always misplacing my stethoscope, only to find it hanging around my neck.  Now, with Rainie in my life, I am perpetually doing the same thing with her leash.  I’ve discovered that the neck is a very handy place to put it – so I’ll always know where it is.  Except I usually forget it’s there.  I was reminded of this as I was hurriedly trying to put everything in order to go talk to the local nursing program’s class that is studying pediatrics and chronic illnesses.  As I was attempting to get Rainie and the gear into the car, I couldn’t find the leash because it was around my neck!

 In preparation for my talk on “the psychosocial impact of choric illness on the individual, family and society” (as well as diabetic alert dogs), I asked the students to read “How Does It Feel” from this blog site.  I wanted to try to show the students the impact a nurse can have if he or she tries to put herself/himself in the position, or shoes, of the client, and look at issues from that orientation.  I discovered this is much easier said than done.  “Empathy” is something one develops with maturity and experience.

Here are some of the topics we talked about in class:

I asked what issue do they (the students) think is the biggest fear of having diabetes, or having a child with diabetes in the family.  The major response I heard was the fear of going blind from long-term complications.  This is not what I was expecting from a class that had already covered the biology of diabetes.  But, at the same time, I could see where they got this idea from – I remember the doctors talking to me about ‘maintaining my diabetic regime’, or I might go blind!!  The doctors were using the scare-tactic on me in order to get me to follow their rules.  This must be what the students are being taught in this program.  I told them I had hoped they would talk about the daily problems of the diabetic’s blood sugar of going too low.  Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) will quickly cause altered thinking, poor judgment, dizziness, accidents, unconsciousness, and, ultimately, death.  We explored what it might be like living with this constant fear, and the life changes that must be made in order to avoid hypoglycemia and long-term complications.

Next we talked about diabetic alert dogs, and how one might fit into a diabetic’s life, and why.  (Rainie was a star!)

We discussed how the first thing a nurses must assess (measure) when meeting with a client is the client’s fear and degree of acceptance of a diagnosis, and find out what ‘burning questions’ they may have.  Without doing this first, no other teaching can happen – especially if the client is truly anxious, agitated or angry.  And, the diagnosis of “Diabetes” tends to bring with it a lot of fear and anxiety, especially if it is in a child.  We explored how, in a perfect family, the whole family might adapt to the new food requirements and exercise plans, as well as be involved in learning what diabetes is all about.  The family and the patient are the nurse’s client.

I talked about how the patient may have an appointment to meet with a nurse in order to learn or review a myriad of information, but, even though the patient may look ‘fine’, their body might be in a bad metabolic/chemical state due to blood sugar problems.  This makes the nurse’s job of teaching more difficult, and possibly frustrating for both the nurse and client/s.

There was so much we could have covered, but I only had an hour, and the instructor had asked me to show how a nurse would teach someone (a family member, a teacher, a school nurse, etc.) how to give a Glucagon injection.  (Glucagon is a hormone that should be injected into a diabetic if the diabetic’s blood sugar goes so low that she/he is not able to eat, becomes combative, is having seizures, or becomes unconscious.)  I brought two expired glucagon kits with me so the students could actually handle them, and mix the two ingredients together as if they were going to teach someone how to inject the Glucagon.  The example I gave was for the students to teach a grandmother how to give a Glucagon injection to her 3-year-old granddaughter, who was having seizures due to low blood sugar.  Before we cracked the cases open, I asked the class if anyone had ever given himself or herself an injection.  All the faces, but one, dropped with an expression of horror!  “NO!”  I asked, “Why not?”  I suggested that the next time they had to get a flu shot or tetanus shot, to ask to give it to themselves, then imagine what it might be like for a parent to have to learn how to give their first insulin shot to their child, or, as in this case, what it would be like for Grandma.  The room became very quiet … Next, we figured out how to break open the plastic box the glucagon kit comes in, uncap the syringe and needle, inject the fluid from the syringe into the glass vial containing the powdered glucagon, agitate the bottle to mix it, and now teach “Grandma” how to give the injection.  I believe my asking the nursing students to imagine doing this to themselves must have “freaked-them-out” because most of them were “all thumbs.”  After much giggling and dropping of the bottles, my time was up.

For me, this opportunity was priceless.  I haven’t “put my nursing hat on” for a long time.  As for the students, I hope they took away a slightly different perspective of life and the teaching process.

Keeping Hope Alive

IMG_2530I’m always amazed how a little thing, like a simple sticker in this case, can cause an “Ah-ha” moment.

Rainie and I have just returned from our weekly trip to the local farmers’ market, where, as usual, we were soon greeted by a following of kids.  From the distance, I heard little voices shouting, “Look Mommy!  There’s a dog!” or, “Rainie! Rainie! There’s Rainie!”  The kids seem to appear individually, or by swarm.  After greeting them, and inviting the shy ones (including families) to come forward, I usually introduce the listeners to Rainie by giving them my short talk, that goes something like this: “You always needing to ask before you pet ANY dog, but especially a dog wearing a jacket, because that means the dogs are working, and have a special job to do and shouldn’t be interrupted.”  Then the kids are allowed to do what they came to do (pet Rainie), and I’ll answer the myriad of questions that are posed – i.e.” What does Rainie do?”, “What kind of dog is she?”,  “What is EAC?”,  and, my favorite, “How can I find out more information about diabetic alert dogs and Early Alert Canines (which is usually asked by adults) ?”

Recently, I’ve begun offering EAC stickers to those interested, which seems to delight kids of all ages.  (The little ones assume it is a picture of Rainie, and are pleased to be able to take a picture of her home.).  Today, a girl of about 8 approached.  She was shy as she gently knelt down and wrapped her arms around Rainie’s neck.  She seemed very interested to learn about what Rainie does for me and how she was trained.  She seemed to leave only because her mom was calling for her.  She happily accepted a sticker, and Rainie and I proceeded on our way.  Not long afterword a woman, being led by the young girl, came hurrying up to us.  The mom told us that they had been searching the bustling market to find us in order to find out more about Rainie and EAC.  Apparently, her daughter had given the sticker to her, told her about our conversation, and had asked if she could send the sticker to her cousin in Michigan.  This cousin had been diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 7 months, and is now 3 and a half.  His family is having trouble with the toddler going low at night, and has been trying to find information about diabetic alert dogs, but couldn’t find anyone willing to talk with them because the boy is so young.

After explaining that EAC does place dogs with families with young children, I, unfortunately, had to tell them that due to our being so small, and the fact that we offer life-long support to our teams, EAC must limit the placements of blood sugar alert dogs to the Western United States.  The young girl then said something to the effect of: “Well, maybe other groups will learn how to teach dogs for kids from you (EAC).  All we can do is keep the hope alive.”