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Help Kate get a service dog for dysautonomia

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Thank you for taking the time to learn more about my request for donations. 

Please allow me to begin by introducing myself to those of you who may not know me. My name is Kate, and most recently I have been serving my community as a pediatric nurse and volunteer for local not-for-profits. On the outside, I am a young, single, twenty-something who is independently maintaining the cost and upkeep of my home, but beneath the surface, I often endure a great deal of pain and suffering. 
As someone who has spent many years dedicated to serving and caring for others, it is not easy for me to ask you for a helping hand. However, I hope that simply knowing that my multitude of health conditions qualifies me for a Medical Alert Assistance Dog will provide you with the reassurance you might need to know this “ask” is a not something that I take lightly. 

While I continue to undergo additional testing ordered by my cardiologist and neurologist for other suspected conditions, some of the current diagnoses adversely affecting my activities of daily living include:

Postural Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS)
  • Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) is a form of dysautonomia and orthostatic intolerance that is associated with the presence of excessive tachycardia. 
  • While the diagnostic criteria focuses on the abnormal heart rate, POTS usually presents with symptoms much more complex.
  • Some of my symptoms include fatigue, headaches, lightheadedness, heart palpitations, sudden changes in blood pressure, exercise intolerance, nausea, diminished concentration, tremors (shaking), syncope (fainting), coldness or pain in the extremities, chest pain and shortness of breath.
Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (hEDS)
  • hEDS is a rare genetic disease that most notably causes me chronic musculoskeletal (muscle, bone, and joint) pain. 

  • My headache pain often occurs without warning and can cause immediate nausea, blurred vision, and sensitivity to light, sound, and noise. They feel debilitating. 

How Can You Help? 

As you might imagine, in order to be recognized under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), service dogs must be specially trained to perform certain tasks and meet behaviors standards. Many dogs do not qualify. The specialized care and training invested in these dogs is immeasurable, and as such, service dogs are not categorized as pets. Under the law, they are considered to be “necessary medical equipment.” And, like other medical devices, there is a significant cost associated. 

The cost of an ADA certified service dog ranges from $20,000 to $50,000. Fortunately, I have qualified as a client of an organization that specially trains and places dogs for the lesser price of $20,000 for the dog and $600 for a two-week training seminar with me (“the client”) and the dog assigned to care for me. 

Although, I have applied for a scholarship that may cover up to $15,000, I will be responsible for whatever the difference in cost might be. 

At this time, I would like to ask for your consideration in donating toward my out-of-pocket costs. If by chance funds raised exceed the needed amount, I will donate the excess to future clients that need help to fund a dog of their own. 

A little more about my background for those who have the time and interest: 

Throughout the years, I had always found myself participating in and guiding outdoor activities and working with children. While I struggled at times physically, I never knew why, and a number of doctors were unable to pinpoint the cause due to the wide spectrum of symptoms present across the different body systems. 

Although I remember first noticing symptoms in middle school, I was not diagnosed until a few years after completing my undergraduate degrees at App State in 2018. After undergoing a number of tests ranging from extensive blood work to colonoscopies, MRIs and CT Scans to determine if it was different types of cancer and/or other diseases over the course of 2+ years, I was eventually seen by a cardiologist who ordered a tilt table test and diagnosed me with POTS and later hEDS. 

POTS is complicated because it affects every body system in unpredictable ways and the impact is different for each person. It also falls under a broader medical diagnosis known as dysautonomia. Having one diagnosis under the umbrella of dysautonomia puts patients at higher risk of having other conditions, which as I shared, I have (hEDS and others). 

Fortunately for me, my symptoms have progressed slower than other people, but within the past year, I have experienced an increase in the frequency, range and severity. Despite my recent decline, I have seen a positive change since I began helping train service dogs. 

In November 2021, I started volunteering to help puppies and dogs on their journey to become Medical Alert and Mobility Service Dogs. Throughout my time, I have had the opportunity to see firsthand all the ways service dogs can help people with disabilities that are both visible and invisible. And, in my own experience while training these dogs, I have been alerted and aided at times when I could not even help myself. For example: 

  • I had one dog jump into the shower with me before I noticed symptoms, because they detected I was about to pass out. Sure enough, my heart rate was through the roof and my BP was very low. 
  • I have also had a dog wake me up to a heart rate dangerously low. 
  • I had another dog sense I might pass out and brace me from falling down my second story stairs. 
  • Most recently, I had another dog run and lay on my chest to keep the blood at my core, and then proceeded to bring me a water bottle without being asked. 

These are all different dogs that I have helped care for, but they in turn have helped me pinpoint some of my precursor symptoms, so I can treat them before something more severe happens. As you can see, if it happens suddenly, the dogs have helped keep me safe before I could even detect and help myself. This gives me peace of mind when living alone especially without family close by. 

I care deeply about helping others. And, I waited a long time before deciding to apply for a service dog myself. I wanted to continue helping train, so others could get a dog. I felt that they needed it more, but with my symptoms getting worse, I ultimately decided to apply, because I believe that in order to take the best care of others, I must also take care of myself. 

I believe that based on my experience having a service dog will help me better manage my symptoms. And I hope that eventually, it may even help me get back to a more active lifestyle doing the things I enjoy, rather than merely existing and making day to day activity decisions based on my fatigue, pain, or other symptoms often leaving me immobile, because I am physically unwell. For the time being, I continue to run on adrenaline at work and then crash and burn on my days off when it all catches up with me. As you might imagine, this is less than ideal and a poor quality of life. Hopefully, a dog can help minimize all of this.

So, I know this is a big ask, but I wouldn't be raising my hand for help if I did not feel like it would drastically improve my quality of life and those I care for. I appreciate you all taking the time to read my story and sharing it if you feel comfortable doing so. 

Love to you all, xo. 



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Katelyn Santiago
Chapel Hill, NC

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