Valeria's Diabetic Alert Dog

My name is Valeria Guerrero and I am 22 years old. Almost 5 years ago, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease known as Type 1 Diabetes (T1D). Type 1 Diabetes is a disease in which a person’s pancreas stops producing insulin, a hormone necessary to convert glucose from the foods we eat into energy. Type 1 Diabetes occurs when the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, called beta cells. While its causes are not yet entirely understood, scientists believe that both genetic factors and environmental triggers are involved. Its onset has nothing to do with diet or lifestyle. There is nothing you can do to prevent T1D, and—at present—nothing you can do to get rid of it.

I have been a Type 1 Diabetic since September 17, 2013.  My 5-year anniversary is coming around this year and I have been experiencing more complications with low and high blood glucose levels, this is where a Diabetic Alert Dog would help me and even save my life! I was misdiagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes for almost 2 years before being accurately diagnosed as a Type 1. Around two months before being officially diagnosed at a T1D, I lost about 40 pounds and grew very tired and always fatigued. My doctor had me on the full dosage of Metformin and it still wasn’t helping. My teachers would ask me if I was doing drugs and would check my arms to make sure I wasn’t lying, and I couldn’t figure out why I felt sick all the time and my symptoms were worsening. I didn’t know all the symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes, and it doesn’t run in my family. The misdiagnosis took a toll on my health, I recall the day I felt as if my lungs were collapsing, it was impossible to breathe. I was at school that day, I tried reaching out to my doctor but couldn’t get ahold of her, her nurse told me that to go to the school nurse’s office. When I got to the school nurse’s office, I was struggling to breathe and she called my dad and asked him what to do so he said to check my sugars and if I get worse to just call 911 because he was at work and it would take him a while to get to me and take me to the doctor’s office. She checked my sugars and her meter couldn’t read it because I was too high. Then suddenly I couldn’t breathe so she called 911 and the paramedics came to my school and took me to the hospital. They were thinking about intubating me but I was able to get air with the oxygen mask. When I got to Scripps Hospital, they ran some tests, hooked me up to an IV and the doctor got my parents together and told them that he wanted to run one more test and if it came back to “what he thinks it is,” they were going to transfer me to Rady’s Children’s Hospital. That test was to check if I was in DKA and I was in severe DKA. DKA stands for Diabetic ketoacidosis which is a serious condition that can lead to diabetic coma or even death. When your cells don't get the glucose they need for energy, your body begins to burn fat for energy, which produces ketones. Ketones are chemicals that the body creates when it breaks down fat to use for energy. The body does this when it doesn’t have enough insulin to use glucose, the body’s normal source of energy. When ketones build up in the blood, it becomes more acidic. High levels of ketones can poison the body and cause vital organ damage, and possibly even death. Unfortunately, my doctor could not give us an official diagnosis until I was transferred to Rady Children’s Hospital. I was in the Intensive Care Unit for a couple days and then spent about 2 weeks in the hospital to learn how to manage and care for my Type 1 Diabetes.  I couldn’t remember where I was or what my name was or even who was around me in the room, it was terrifying. My doctor told me that I was one of the lucky ones and that if I had ignored my shortness of breath, I would have most likely not woken up the next morning. My lungs were giving up. My body was giving up. Like many, I wasn’t educated on the symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes. I was in denial for a long time, being terrified to inject myself, feeling uncomfortable testing in front of family members who would turn their heads because they couldn’t watch me poke myself with needles, it was so hard. I was ashamed because I thought I did something wrong, but I have learned to realize that it isn’t my fault. It’s no one’s fault. I have learned to live and grow with this disease. I have a love/hate relationship with it. It has taught me so much about myself and made me overcome obstacles that I would’ve never had to face otherwise. It has brought me to meet amazing people and learn so much. It’s hard though. I’ve been hospitalized twice since being diagnosed for things out of my control; a simple cold or stomach virus. I have had lows where I can’t feel them, and if I would’ve waited a minute or two longer to check and correct, I would’ve fallen into a coma and/or start seizing. I manage my diabetes to the best of my ability, but I always need and appreciate the help I receive. You can never do it alone, it takes a village! I am currently on an Omnipod insulin pump and a CGM (continuous glucose monitor). I use as many tools as I possibly can to help me manage this disease, but electronic devices fail and are sometimes inaccurate. This is where my life-saving Diabetic Alert Dog would benefit me and my health greatly.

About a year into being diagnosed, I learned about Diabetic Alert Dogs through one of my biggest blessings that came out of being diagnosed, the Paramo Family. I didn’t think that Diabetic Alert Dogs were even a real thing. I had seen service dogs for many different things but I never thought they would have some for people with diabetes. You may be wondering, what is a diabetic alert dog and how do they help? Diabetic Alert Dogs — affectionately known as DADs — are service dogs that are highly skilled and trained. Their primary task, as service dogs, is to alert diabetics of an oncoming hypoglycemic or hyperglycemic event (low or high blood sugar, respectively). DADs are able to do this by detecting chemical changes in the blood stream, via their olfactory senses (noses), scents which go undetected by the human olfactory system. These skills require rigorous scent and behavioral training from professional service dog trainers. In addition to being on alert for blood sugar malfunctions, Diabetic Alert Dogs (DAD) are known to save the lives of their handlers, or person with diabetes.

When the Paramo Family got a DAD for their son Raiden, and I met  Stryker, I knew it was time to learn more and prepare myself for the process. I observed this young puppy go through his training with the family and become an amazing DAD (diabetic alert dog)! Every time I see him, it makes me want a DAD for myself even more! Even with my CGM on, I am a very heavy sleeper and can’t feel my lows or highs while I’m asleep, making waking up to the alarms extremely difficult and dangerous. A diabetic alert dog would have no problem waking me up to have me check my blood glucose levels before they become fatal. I love being around dogs and love watching how they alert, it never ceases to amaze me. Dogs always bring love and comfort into my heart. It amazes me how such a beautiful and innocent creature can be so pure and literally save your life. I want a diabetic alert dog to be able to get the help and extra alerts when my glucose levels are dropping too low or going up too high. Aside from regular checks or waiting until it’s too late and I feel a low or high, the DADs help catch it while it is happening in real time and this is the difference between life and death and an electronic device that runs twenty minutes behind. They provide you with that loving companionship and friendship everyone needs. Diabetic alert dogs are your little angels helping you manage a life with T1D much safer and the little bit of extra love from a DAD is always welcomed.

I created this page to ask for your help in raising money to be able to get my own diabetic alert dog. I hope and pray that in sharing my story people will learn more about me, Diabetic Alert Dogs, Type 1 Diabetes,  and why getting a diabetic alert dog means so much to me. Your contribution, in this journey, would mean the world to me and is greatly appreciated.

ANYTHING HELPS. God bless you all and thank you so much for your unconditional love and support, and for being part of this journey with me!

Meet Koda, my Diabetic Alert Dog. Hopefully he will be coming home to me in December! He will be in training until then. I meet him next month so I will make sure to take plenty of pictures to share with you all!


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Valeria Guerrero 
San Diego, CA
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