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My 9 year daughter Mabel was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) on September 5th 2017, a day we will never forget as it changed our lives forever.
After not bouncing back from a head cold, a check-up at the GP resulted in urgent blood tests, an emergency Royal Flying Doctor Service flight to Perth, 11 days in Princess Margaret Hospital and a lifetime diagnosis of Type 1 Diabetes.
Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) is a life-long autoimmune disease that usually occurs in childhood but can be diagnosed at any age. It is entirely dissimilar to Type 2 Diabetes and is not caused by poor health or a bad diet. It is an autoimmune disease for which we do not have a cure.
T1D affects over 120,000 people in Australia alone. It requires around the clock monitoring, (even throughout the night,) and Mabel’s life can be under threat at any given time.
T1D is caused by the immune system mistakenly turning on itself, destroying beta cells within the pancreas and removing the body's ability to produce insulin.
Put simply, human beings can not live without insulin. When we eat, our bodies transform carbohydrates into glucose (sugar) and our pancreas produces insulin which enables the body to process this glucose to create energy - so without insulin, the body literally starves as it cannot process food. This was happening to Mabel prior to diagnosis.
Mabel is now fully insulin dependant for the rest of her life. This diagnosis requires her to have at least 5 insulin injections a day and either do 10-15 finger pricks every day to test her Blood Glucose Levels, or alternatively to wear an implanted device called a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) and only do 4 finger pricks a day. The CGM is helpful as it alerts us with an alarm but it has proven to be unreliable and inaccurate. Plus, it has to be re-implanted into Mabel’s thin little body every 7 days, ...a process which is painful and traumatic for her. Fingerprick blood tests are more accurate but getting up at midnight and 3am results in extreme sleep deprivation and Mabel’s little fingertips are already becoming sore, sensitive and scarred.
Mabel’s ideal Blood Glucose Level (BGL) should be between 4-8. Below 4 is called a hypo. Above 8 is called a hyper. Both can be life threatening, if they are not treated.
An inability to detect a hypo is common in young children as a result of their stage of growth and development. On the other hand, Hypo Unawareness occurs when a child who previously had the ability to recognise a hypo loses this ability. Mabel is now showing signs of being Hypo Unaware. This is extremly dangerous overnight as a severe hypo can lead to a coma in just a few hours.
How will a dog help?
Diabetic Alert Dogs (D.A.D.’s) are trained to smell the chemical body changes that occur as the Blood Glucose Levels increase or drop. When a child is experiencing a high or low, their body is releasing chemicals that change their typical scent.
A D.A.D. is trained to respond to these chemical changes and alert the child and/or adult when this occurs. A single finger prick test to check the child’s Blood Glucose Level follows and then the appropriate action is taken. This can be life saving especially through the night.
The Diabetic Alert Dog is trained over 12 months to pick up a ‘low’ or a ‘high’ before a human or medical equipment can. The training starts when they are only 2 hours old - when they are ‘imprinted’ with the scent of low BGL.
Once fully trained, the D.A.D. will pick up on the smell of Blood Glucose dropping even before CGM does, therefore stopping Mabel’s hypo’s before they happen. They can also alert when Blood Glucose is rising too high, therefore lessening the risk of devastating life-long complications such as blindness, organ damage/failure and toe amputation.
These dogs are the latest tool in T1D management, as they warn of an impending hypoglycaemic episode well in advance, allowing for prompt treatment to avert the episode from happening.
This could be life saving for Mabel and a huge benefit to her long term health. It will give us so much peace of mind, particularly at night. It will also allow her to feel safe & protected at all times.
Thank you for taking the time to read our story. Mabel’s life has now changed forever. She has a long journey ahead... a journey of ever-changing medications, insulin delivery systems, food calculations and education, in her lifelong quest to manage her Blood Glucose Levels within range. A Diabetic Alert Dog (which Mabel has chosen to name Phoenix) will make her life a little easier, relieve some of the extra daily pressures, remove the need for some of the painful procedures she currently endures and will provide comfort, reassurance and security.
Every donation is greatly appreciated- thank you.
PS If you would like to know more, google “diabetic alert dog” to read the articles that show where these dogs have saved peoples lives.
**************************************Following is an excerpt from an article on a UK diabetic dog:- Medical Detection Dog saves diabetic’s life! A medical alert dog, trained by the charity Medical Detection Dogs to recognise and alert its handler to dangerous falls in sugar levels, has saved the life of a woman in Buckinghamshire. Carolyn Gatenby suffers from highly unstable Type 1 Diabetes and experiences frequent dangerous low blood glucose levels. Her condition is all the more life threatening as she has no warning symptoms at all of when her blood glucose levels run too low or too high. Ms Gatenby was therefore partnered with a Medical Alert Assistance Dog, who alerts her to dropping and raised blood glucose levels, by picking up on an odour change undetectable to humans. On the evening of Friday 31st May, Ms Gatenby was returning from the charity’s centre in Winslow, Buckinghamshire when her dog, Simba, alerted her to a fall in her blood glucose levels. However, the fall was so rapid that she was unable to eat a high-sugar food substance in time. Ms Gatenby suffered a hypoglycaemia and fell unconscious. Simba, wearing his assistance dog jacket marked ‘Diabetes Alert Dog,’ strove to raise public awareness by visibly nudging Carolyn constantly, whimpering and barking. Simba succeeded in capturing the attention of a passer-by, Rebecca Gorden, who realised that Carolyn was suffering from a medical emergency and called an ambulance. Ms Gorden said that had it not been for Simba, she would have not realised that Ms Gatenby was unconscious and would not have stopped to help. With Simba accompanying her in the ambulance, Ms Gatenby was admitted to hospital, was quickly treated and was able to be discharged later that evening. Dr Claire Guest, Director of Operations at Medical Detection Dogs commented: “This is a powerful example of the highly significant work our dogs do in alerting diabetics to the hazardous situations they find themselves in daily. “It worries me that there are many other people in Carolyn Gatenby’s position, who are seriously at risk from episodes of hypoglycaemia, but do not have a dog to alert them or to warn the public of the danger they face. “This near-fatal incident has reminded us all how vital it is that we as a charity continue to raise money so we can provide other diabetes suffers with this life-saving service. “When a kind donor gives money to Medical Detection Dogs, they know that they are making the ultimate difference to someone’s life.”
- Tobias Merkle
- Michael Scott
- Michael Scott
- Diana Gosling
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