Early one winter morning not too long ago, I awoke to see four young, strong men surrounding my bed. No, this story will not be lascivious. Keep reading anyway.

The young men were EMTs, summoned by Stephen, my husband, who had found me in a seizure caused by severe hypoglycemia. Before calling 911, Stephen grabbed my Glucagon kit, prepared the syringe, and injected me. He tells me that he waited ten minutes before making the call, during which time I failed to respond.

By the time the EMTs arrived and I became conscious, my glucose level—with the aid of the Glucagon—had climbed to 37. Roughly 100 is the reading you folks with a working pancreas would get if you tested your glucose; a reading below 50 can cause what researchers call functional brain failure. Off to the hospital I went. A few decades with type 1 diabetes had taken a toll.

That hospital stay and other, increasingly frequent hypoglycemic events forced me to forgo long walks in the woods, vigorous games of tennis and badminton, and even driving and grocery shopping—all those small activities of daily life. Worse, I didn’t even trust myself to babysit my beloved granddaughter. My love of life—my freedom—was severely curtailed. I was necessarily becoming reclusive.

That was my condition when I began to explore the idea of getting a diabetic alert dog. Service Dogs of Virginia (SDV), a wonderful nonprofit organization in Charlottesville that raises, trains, and places dogs to assist people with disabilities, introduced me to Birdie.

Birdie, the finest diabetic alert dog a person could ever want, has given me back the life I want to live, the active, involved life that my disease had eroded. Birdie helps me stay conscious and far from hospitals. Birdie takes those long walks with me. She welcomes my granddaughter’s hugs. She makes me laugh. But in addition to being a goofy, endearing member of our family pack, she alerts me to impending hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia. With Birdie’s assistance, I can take action to intercept the life-threatening effects of my disease. With Birdie by my side, I recently drove seven hours—by myself!—to visit my aunt, and on another occasion, Birdie and I took a long, long walk with my granddaughter.

It costs a lot—more than $20,000—to raise and train a service dog. Yet SDV asks only a nominal fee from its clients. If SDV is to continue to provide these exceptional dogs to individuals with disabilities, it must have financial support. I hope that you will be able to help with a donation to SDV so that others can regain a measure of independence and joy in their lives.


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Donna Daniels Verdier 
Alexandria, VA
Registered nonprofit
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