I was recently added to a group on facebook called Drey's Alert Dogs. The first time I saw the name I thought, "Alert dogs - why?" I was completely in the dark and clueless to the fact that many Type 1 Diabetics need these wonderful companions to help them know when they are in danger due to low blood glucose levels. Today I asked my friend Sherry Dillane to share their (D.A.D)story.
This time it wasn't.
Dan Warren with Service dogs by Warren Retrievers, based in Orange Virginia, called the Dillane home to let the family know that 13-year-old Deven Rusnak's diabetes awareness dog would be arriving sometime in August.
"We are so excited," a jubilant Dillane said this morning. "Deven was really excited."
Dillane has been on a mission since January to get Deven - who has Type 1 diabetes - a diabetes awareness dog (D.A.D) that could tell when Deven's blood glucose level has dipped too low.
She held a fundraiser at the Forked River House in March. She sat outside Wal-Mart with educational materials and a can. She held medium readings in her Timberline home in Bayville. Local businesses donated portions of the profits on given days to help with the roughly $22,000 price of the highly-trained dog. Residents in the senior communities chipped in.
"The whole experience was overwhelming," Dillane said. "This isn't just Deven's D.A.D, it's the whole township's. That's the way we feel. If it wasn't for everyone's help, we wouldn't be here today."
Dillane also credited Robert Taurosa of RPM Auto in Bayville for helping to get the effort underway. Taurosa donated $1,000 so Deven's name could be put on the list at Warren Retrievers, she said.
"Blaze," a male red fox Labrador Retriever puppy, was born on April 22 at Virginia-based Warren Retrievers. He is undergoing intense training before he arrives at the Dillane home.
Dillane was expecting a call from Warren today to find out if Deven was one of the children on the list who would receive a dog. But the call came early. She hadn't told Deven that the call was coming.
"I kept it from him," she said. "For me to keep a secret like that, you have no idea how hard it was."
Deven has hypoglycemic unawareness and cannot tell when his blood glucose levels have dropped to dangerous levels. The family tests more than a dozen times a day and sets the alarm to check several times during the night. But there have still been times his blood sugar has gone too low in between testings.
Take a look at these videos.
DEVEN'S FIRST A1C SINCE OUR BLAZE CAME HOME!!
The cells located within the islets of Langerhans of the pancreas that secrete insulin. The process leading to Type 1 (insulin-dependent) diabetes appears to start when the immune system recognizes and attacks proteins on the surface of the beta cells, possibly mistaking them for proteins on an invading organism. From here, the process leading to Type 1 diabetes is a complex and poorly understood chain of events. White blood cells called cytotoxic or “killer” T cells flood into the pancreatic islets and cause an inflammation known as insulitis. Over the course of years, the beta cells are gradually destroyed. Once most of them are gone, the symptoms of diabetes begin to appear. By discovering more about this immune system attack on the beta cells, researchers hope to devise ways of interrupting the process and preventing or delaying the onset of diabetes.
So every three months you have to go to an Endocrinologist to get your A1C, change your insulin to carb. ratio, your correction insulin amount and other things, basil rate if on a pump or 24 hour insulin if on shots, seeing a Nutritionist, Social Worker and the nurse.
When Deven was diagnosed his A1c was 12.5, throughout the course of the 2 years it dropped down in the eleven's, ten's, nine's and even the eight's. We couldn't get it lower. Then before Blaze came we got it down to 7.3 !! Woo hoo, AWESOME!! Right? NOT.. :( It was a default, because he had too many low blood sugars in a 3 months’ time. BOOOOO.. the next was right after Blaze arrived it was 7.7 better, but still too many lows, not as many but enough to make his A1C 7.7...Again, we were disheartened.
Then we had another visit when Blaze was here for 3 months, we couldn't wait. Wouldn't you know it, disaster struck; we had Super storm Sandy. The devastation, loss of power, no heat, no school, volunteering; for three weeks it was all a mess. Deven's blood sugar levels sky rocketed; he was high for two weeks straight, 24/7. His numbers were always in the high 200 as far as in the high 500. Blaze stopped alerting for 4 weeks during that destruction. (When a person is high or low for a period of time the Dog's then thinks it's normal and will not alert) I didn't know how to get him back on track. Eventually when our trainer came December 3, 2012 within hours Blaze was back to his old self. Just in a different way, but I didn't care at this point how he alerted; just that he did and he would let us know!!
Before I get to Deven's new A1C number, I want to explain how D.A.D.'s work. They have 25 million nose receptors in their noses and we have 5 million, they can smell what some of us can't. When a person goes high it smells like a cotton candy (sweet smell) when they go low it smells like an acetone (finger nail polish remover) with that being said, they catch high and low blood sugars that we might not. There are still normal times when we still check like before all meals (if Blaze isn't alerting as well) and sometimes he is in range, after school, after or even before play and before bed and in the middle of the A.M. You need to remember that Blaze is still in training and he is a puppy, he won't be fully trained until 18-24 months, so there are some that he/they can miss right now. So Blaze will catch rising and falling blood sugars before us, these are times when we wouldn't know to check, whether it be and hour after a great B.G. check or even as fast as 20 minutes after a great B.G. check. Now Deven's Endo. visit.
So with all those numbers, today March 6, 2013.. The first time being no Super storm, no hospital visits, no major catastrophes and barley any lows, because Blaze catches them before they go to low so we correct; and not too high because Blaze catches them and we do what is necessary.
Deven's A1c for March 6, 2013 went from 8.4 to 6.7 !!! Also his daily average B.G. went from 195 to 155, that is a 40 point drop in only 3 mos. I don't think this would have ever happened without Blaze. These dogs are here to keep our sugar babies safe, and by far Blaze has risen to do what he was born to do and he does it AMAZINGLY!!
I was in tears when nurse Debbie told us, I automatically grabbed Blaze gave him a great big hug and kisses and told him thank you for taking care of Deven, I love you so much!! I held him for about 10 minutes as tears rolled down my face; I really feel in my heart that Deven's numbers wouldn't be where they are today if we didn't have Blaze. You have to remember, this is three years and we couldn't get it below the high eights. Debbie was amazed at the numbers as I explained to her how Blaze works Dr. Tangora was amazed as well.
The Dr. asked me if I thought it was because of Blaze or what we were doing (her and us) I smiled and chuckled and said, "No not at all, it's what Blaze does." I then explained to her out of the normal checks that you need to do, Blaze catches the fluctuations that we wouldn't even know, he lets us know the in- between times that we need to check. So if it wasn't for Blaze; those in-between would go unnoticed and by the time we would check, he would be to high (maybe DKA) and also too many highs is a bad recipe for complications later in life; or too low a bad recipe for passing out, coma, seizures or even death. Blaze has done this numerous times, enough to have Deven's A1C be where it is today!!
Also as we’re there our Dr. asks us about the CGM, a newer one, she explains it to me. (Now I already know about how Deven feels about sticking himself with another needle, (its bad enough with the sites and finger pricks, and the scaring already, let alone another site) So I said "No, it's Deven's choice and I know how he feels" She starts to explain it, (she has to she's the Dr.) but I again am polite and I chuckle and say; "Why would we need Deven to stick himself with another needle anyway?" She said, "it's a way to better manage his diabetes" (remember she is the Dr. she has to go through this speech) I cover my mouth with tears in my eyes and politely say "Who needs a CGM when we have something even better than that, WE HAVE BLAZE, and he doesn't hurt"!!
I want to thank everyone that helped us in bringing our Blaze home, without the support and the donations I wouldn't be writing this; let alone today have been crying when nurse Debbie told us the results. This is what it's all about, this is why Blaze was so important to our son Deven as well as to our family!! Thank you all from the bottom of our hearts, there are so many to mention but you all are special and you all know who you are!! Thank you for helping us help Deven see less complications in his life and live a normal life as possible!! We love all of you!!
I can't express how much our family is thankful to Dan Warren with Service dogs by Warren Retrievers, without him and his vision, his team of extraordinary trainers we would not have a D.A.D. and especially we wouldn't have our AMAZING BLAZE!!
We are eternally grateful to you Dan and we want to thank you for giving our son as normal of a life as he can have. You have given not only Deven something that he has wanted since being diagnosed, but you have given us peace of mind, we now feel confident to leave Deven by himself for a few hours because we know Blaze is right there by his side protecting his boy, our son Deven!! Again, thank you Dan for bringing Blaze into our home our hearts and our family! Thank you will never be enough, but our son's life speaks louder!!
Sherry, Frank, Chris and Deven
His brothers, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins and Friends
Sincere thanks to the Dillane family for sharing your story with us today! Some D.A.D's are trained by the owners. In a future post, you can read about one such dog. It's an amazing story.
What a blessing it is for Deven to have Blaze, his 4-legged friend! A more loyal friend Deven could not ask for! My friend, Lucinda Berry Hill has graciously given me permission to use these poems about the joy of friendship. I hope you find them to be as inspiring as I have. Lucinda is the author of the wonderful book of poetry entitled, "Coffee With Jesus".
And then He gave me you.
You make my face glow.
You give me strength
And join me in my hope.
You do so much to show me
The kind of friend that you are.
You show your care
And your concern
And your interest in my heart.
I thank God for His blessings:
For His will and ways above.
I thank Him for
The gifts He gives,
Like you, to show His love.
Today is NAME TAG DAY!!!!!!!!!! If you have ever felt invisible, today is the day you finally break out of your shell and wear a name tag so everyone will remember your name. Smile and have a great day!!!