Byron's Diabetic Sensor & Alert Dog
First, Byron’s Diabetes story in his mama’s words: "Just a week before our son's 5th birthday, we started to notice he wasn't acting quite right! He was drinking water in large amounts, needing to go to the bathroom constantly, losing weight and often complaining of stomach pains. Our family doctor ran a series of tests and soon as the blood glucose results were in and we were informed our son, Byron was very sick and needed to be immediately shipped off to the Pediatric ICU in Rochester, MN. The date was November 7th, 2011 just a few short days before his 5th birthday. Byron was admitted to Saint Mary's Hospital for a week to bring his body back to a normal level. We spent the week along side him learning about how to manage his newly diagnose diseas, Type 1 Diabetes. There was nothing we could have done to prevent Byron from developing Diabetes. Type 1 Diabetes is a disease in which a person’s own immune system destroys the islet cells in the pancreas. Islet cells produce insulin. Insulin allows food and drink to enter our body’s cells as glucose which in turn gives us the energy necessary for survival. A person with Type 1 Diabetes can no longer produce insulin. Insulin must be given by multiple injections or an insulin pump on a daily basis in order to survive. Byron wears an insulin pump. His pump is attached to him through a port in his body which we inject with a needle. This port acts as his pancreas delivering insulin around the clock. With Type 1 Diabetes, blood sugar levels can vary widely (low and high) and must be monitored closely by testing a drop of blood many times throughout the day. Blood sugars can vary due to many factors such as exercise, illness, stress, and growth. Byron's daily life looks much different than your ordinary kid's life! He can never eat anything without checking the amount of sugar in his blood first (usually 8-10 times a day). If the sugar in his blood is high, Byron has to inject insulin to bring his blood sugar levels back within normal limits. Once his blood sugar levels are back to normal he has to count carfeully track his carbohydrate intake to insure he recieves enough insulin he is going to eat so he can adjust his insulin based on the food he is about to eat. Byron visits his team of doctors and has his blood drawn every 3 months. He will need to do this for the rest of his life, with even more often when he is sick. Since Type 1 Diabetes is an autoimmune disorder, Byron's immune system is not as strong as most people’s and he gets sick much easier! When Byron does get sick it is usually more serious and complicated due to many factors that come along with having diabetes. Byron's journey has had a lot of up's and downs and as much as he has wanted, he has never gotten a day off from Diabetes. In order to keep Byron healthy it takes a lot of work each and every day! Being only 9 years old and having to shuffle around constantly, it is easy for Byron to feel as if Diabetes controls him. However, Byron and our family try really hard not to let Diabetes define him! Byron has a very soft heart and is always thinking of others before himself! His favorite thing is to save his money up and go to the store to buy one thing for each of his 6 siblings; he loves to surprise them! We have great joy as Byron's parents and continue to be amazed by his compassion and drive each and everyday!"
Unfortunately, Byron’s battle has become much more difficult these past few months as his condition has worsened substantially with the development of Hypoglycemic Unawareness. In a nut shell, Hypoglycemic Unawareness means that Byron is no longer able to feel when his glucose levels are dangerously low. This has made an already difficult disease almost impossible to control without drastic measures. Due to his Hypoglycemic Unawareness, Byron’s glucose levels have dropped as low as 30 on several occasions (A kiddo Byron’s age normally has a blood glucose level between 70 and 150). The reality is that with Hypoglycemic Unawareness and glucose levels dipping into the 30’s, Byron facing the very real risk of seizures, coma, and even death from Type 1 Diabetes.
Byron and his family are very aware of these very real risks and the weight of those worries is enough to break even the strongest of people. Byron’s parents, Dara & Evan Getchell, are waging this war alongside Byron every step of the way! With the new development of Byron’s Hypoglycemic Unawareness, Dara and Evan never sleep more than 2-3 hours at a time and something not more than 2-3 hours for the night! Night time is a scary time for everyone with the constant threat of the life-threatening glucose dips looming overhead. No two nights are the same, so there is no planning ahead or proactive approach to be taken. Instead, Dara and Evan rely on only themselves to religiously monitor his levels all through the night. During the day, Bryon is poking his finger and injecting insulin as necessary 10 or more times per day. Despite these substantial challenges, the Getchell family is still a family filled with joy and life! They are strong Christians who lean heavily on their faith to get them through each day. Both Dara and Evan work outside the home to support the mounting medical costs associated with Type 1 Diabetes. Despite their own daily struggle, Dara and Evan also work very hard to fundraise money which goes directly to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) every year. The entire extended family and many friends (Byron's team!) also participate in the annual JDRF walk.
Dispite all of the heartbreak and hearache, there is hope!!! Dara and Evan have thoughtfully, prayerfully, and with the support of Byron’s medical team, come up with a plan to help bring stability and control to Byron’s diabetic battle. The plan is two-fold and will bring much peace and safety into Byron’s life. The first is a Dexcom Continuous Blood Glucose Monitor to better care for and manage his condition ( https://www.dexcom.com). Byron is in IMMEDIATE need of this life-saving sensor. This Dexcom sensor will allow for continuous monitoring of Byron’s blood glucose. This will also keep him safe during school, sporting activities, and while playing. This little device can prevent the dangerous fluctuations in his blood glucose levels. Despite Dara’s repeated pleas to the insurance company, they will not cover any of the costs of this life-saving device. The Dexcom sensor is $1,200 for the basic start-up costs (transmitter and receiver) which doesn’t include a minimum monthly maintenance cost of $299 for replacement sensors which need to be changed every 7 days. Our goal here is to raise the full cost of the start-up kit, plus 6 months of replacement sensors to total $3,000.
The second phase is the one that Byron is most excited about! Byron has recently been accepted into the Heads Up Hounds, Diabetic Alert Dog program ( http://www.headsuphounds.com). Insurance again will not cover any of the cost to bring Byron’s Diabetic Alert Dog home. As reads on their website, “A diabetic alert dog is a dog that uses his/her heightened sense of smell to detect changes in the scent of a diabetics saliva to determine if they are at a good blood sugar level. If their handler is at an alert-worthy level, they will bump the person's hand with their nose.” This dog will be much more than a dog. This dog will be a vital part of Byron’s medical team. Most importantly, this dog will be specially trained in night alert. Night alert is when a diabetic alert dog wakes his handler up when he detects a change in their blood sugar; this will be life changing for the Getchell family! Not only will the dog literally keep Byron’s blood glucose levels from dropping unnoticed, he will also serve as a companion to help Byron cope with the surmounting stress and mental anguish that goes hand in hand with living with a potentially deadly, daily, and incurable disease. While Byron has been accepted into the program, he cannot be put on the waiting list for the diabetic alert dog until a $1500 down payment can be made. This is our first goal!! Please help us to raise $1500 as quickly as possible so we can get Byron’s name on the waiting list for his life-saving and life-changing companion! The total cost for Byron’s Diabetic Alert Dog will be $8,000 which includes a three day orientation in Omaha, Nebraska after which Byron will be able to bring home his very special Diabetic Alert Dog!!!
All funds will be directly transered into an account specifically set up by the Getchell family for Byron's medical care. Thank you again for all of your love and support! We couldn’t do this without all of our friends, loved ones, medical team, teachers, and our amazing community!