Diabetic Alert Dog for John

Hello. I am writing to ask you to help bring my 32-year-old son John home from a nursing home.  John is a Type 1 diabetic and over the last 25 years has suffered many of the complications of this disease including vision loss, kidney failure, nerve damage in the hands and feet, high blood pressure and stomach issues. Then, a few years ago, he suffered brain damage from a dialysis catheter infection. I was told he would never walk or talk again. Thanks to all the love and prayers that have surrounded him, he has amazed his doctors. They have said he is nothing short of a miracle. He can now walk and talk. But, he is still a 32-year-old young man living in a nursing home. And, with all his medical issues and his current living situation, he struggles with depression and anxiety.

So why does John need your help? He needs your help to get a diabetic alert dog so he can come home.  These dogs can smell when there is a dangerous shift in blood sugar levels and can alert their owner and/or their owners’ care giver. A service dog is also a constant companion and studies have shown they have a positive effect in alleviating depression and anxiety. Caring for the dog will also give John some responsibility and the pride and sense of accomplishment that accompanies that could further his rehabilitation.

A fully-trained, certified, diabetic alert dog will cost $15,000. I have already put $2,500 down and “Charlie” has been identified for John. Charlie is currently training with Diabetic Alert Dogs of America. He should be ready in about five months. I am hoping you will help John and Charlie come home.  John is very excited about Charlie.  It has given him hope for the future. To read the full story of what John has been through since the brain injury and the miracle of the progress he has made, see his story below. 

John’s story

On January 27, 2016, John’s life changed forever. John has been a Type 1 diabetic since he was seven years old and in the past 25 years he’s been through a lot; vision loss, nerve damage and kidney failure. But nothing prepared him (or me) for that fateful January morning when I found John lying on the floor barely breathing.

In a panic, I called 911 and the emergency response of the Friendswood EMS team saved his life.  John was rushed to Clear Lake Regional Hospital where doctors determined he had a blood infection from a dialysis catheter. During the night, his fever had spiked to over 105, he had passed out, vomited and sucked the fluid into his lungs. For hours before I found him, he could barely breathe.

He spent the next eight days on a ventilator in an induced coma and when finally awoken, he was non-responsive. He then began having micro-seizures and they performed a “contrast MRI” on him. John had a massive anoxic brain injury and they told me he would never walk or talk again. For the next six weeks, we had to lash him to the bed to keep him from thrashing about and pulling out his IV’s and his dialysis catheter. I would sit with him for hours during dialysis, trying to keep him calm for the multi-hour procedure.

After almost two months at Clear Lake Regional Hospital, John remained too unresponsive to qualify for a rehabilitation hospital.  He was transferred to Kindred Long Term Care Hospital, and placed in a bed that reminded me of an enclosed playpen. He wore mitts on his hands so he would not pull out the IVs and dialysis catheter.

Throughout all this, I never gave up hope. John recognized me early on and I continued to talk to him, sing to him, and read to him. Gradually he began to recognize other family members and after six weeks at Kindred we transferred him to the Texas Institute for Research and Rehabilitation (TIRR) where we began the arduous process of teaching him to feed himself and other basic tasks.

When he progressed enough to try and walk, we discovered that the long months in bed had caused a contraction of the Achilles tendons, a condition known as “foot drop.” His heels would not go down and he had to walk on his toes. After two months of intensive rehabilitation, we had to transfer him to a nursing home due to Medicare constraints.  He continued making progress despite three or four trips to the ER over the summer.

Then, the next emergency. Rushed to the ER with pulmonary edema, a fluid buildup in the lungs, doctors performed a tracheotomy and placed John on a ventilator in ICU for a month. Fed through a tube, he lost so much muscle mass that his arms and legs looked like toothpicks.

John remained on the trach for months and struggled consistently with the pulmonary edema. Doctors discovered this was caused by ascites, a condition where fluid builds up in the abdomen. They performed a procedure called paracentesis to drain off the fluid, but he was still in and out of the hospital for several months until they began doing a paracentesis once a week. John then managed to stay at the nursing home and out of the hospital for five straight months, the first time in over a year and a half.

Throughout it all, John continued to make progress and astonish his doctors. He can now walk and talk, although he sometimes struggles for the right words. He can even print his name. In December of 2017 we finally removed the trach and he is getting stronger and stronger.

But, he is still living in a nursing home. His goal is to come home despite the physical, mental, emotional and financial hardships of his ongoing major medical issues.

John, of course, is still diabetic, still has limited vision and still needs to have dialysis three times a week. With his brain injury, he is a bit like a man-child and he has a hard time maintaining his blood sugar which can lead to seizures and diabetic ketoacidosis. That is where Charlie can help!

Please help John and Charlie come home by donating to his GoFundMe site.


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Josey Duke 
Friendswood, TX
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