As far as disabilities go, I have a lot going on. The first and most severe disability is Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome. This condition occurs from blood pooling in my feet and hands leading to a lack of blood being able to reach my heart and brain. Personally, it causes fainting/blacking out, inability to walk without assistance, moderate-to-severe pain, and trouble speaking, thinking, or seeing. While not many with this condition are disabled by it, those that are, like myself, have it pretty bad. Dysautonomia International, the leading source on the condition, states, "Researchers found that quality-of-life in POTS patients is comparable to patients on dialysis for kidney failure". This affects every second of every day of my life. I am currently unable to walk more than one mile a day max, even while assisted. The more I do that day, the less I can walk. I also can't be consistent with walking that everyday, depending on my other issues. I faint 3-5x daily around 50% of my days. I have a lot of diagnoses that are more of a symptom than a disease, like "Chronic Idiopathic Hemiplegic Migraines " and "Persistent Postural Perceptual Dizziness " that also act up. These flares "only" occur ~70% of the time (unlike the POTS) and for now, there is no treatment. Currently, my doctors and I (pre-covid) are exploring the belief that this is all signs of a larger issue, which we suspect is autoimmune and neurological in nature. Since we do not know the exact cause of my condition, we can only treat the symptoms and that even extends to my service dog. Before my new prospect comes home, I expect to spend at least 1.5 months at Mayo Clinic further researching treatment and diagnoses options.
Teddy doesn't know the full list of tasks I need help with, but he does know many different tasks:
1. Alert to a fainting episode
2. Alert to a flare
3. Alert to routine (wake-up, meal times, medication, bedtime, etc)
4. "Go get help" from specified person
5. Perform different types of pressure therapy to get my heart rate/blood pressure to normalize
6. Intelligent disobedience if I ignore an alert or try to sit up too fast
7. Orthostatic support (pushing against my knees when standing to prevent them from giving out)
8. Forward momentum
9. Medical emergency response
10. Interruption of over-stimulation due to pain
.... and other guiding, medical alert, and mobility tasks
The new prospect will know this list and much more, specifically tasks related to retrieval (like of an emergency medicine bag or dropped items).
I am attempting to qualify for the only Assistance Dogs International accredited service dog organization that trains service dogs for cardiac alert (the type of alert that is need for POTS). The organization is called Canine Partners for Life and is a very highly reputable and accredited organization. That being said, there are concerns over being temporarily denied due to coronavirus. There are more reports coming out about the very few organizations that exist to train service dogs having to temporarily shut down, slow down, or completely stop accepting applications for a service dog. If this is the case, I will once again work with the local service dog training organization that helped me owner-train Teddy. I would prefer for my dog to graduate from an ADI-accredited organization because they produce higher-quality dogs on average, they don't cost quite as much, and they are usually the only service dog allowed in countries outside the USA that I would like the chance to visit one day.
Service dogs are unfortunately a very expensive form of medical treatment that are not covered by any form of insurance. It takes on average $25,000 (and up to $60,000) to cover the two years of training that a service dog needs to graduate. Thankfully, as I have been slowly saving funds over the last couple of years, I do not need quite as much. I plan to update you all as major costs come up. At this time, I believe the absolute minimum I need to begin the next portion of my service dog journey is $5,000. This should help to cover the initial medical testing my own dog should need to gain clearance to begin training. I am hoping to be able to raise these funds over the next few months to ensure we have the funds ready when the new prospect comes home (if i must proceed with owner-training, this will occur at end of 2020/beginning of 2021). Stay tuned for exciting updates!
Coronavirus has hit us all hard and I entirely understand if you aren't able to help us out monetarily. If you still feel like helping, please share my story with your family, your friends, your coworkers, your church, and any other loved ones!
- Kate Asaff
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