As soon as our bouncy Labrador cross Golden Retriever came home with us, he started to make our lives better in ways I could never have imagined (Picture: Naomi Walsh)
When the idea of having a medical detection dog coming to live with me and my son, Jamie, was first floated by a teacher, I have to admit – I wasn’t too sure.
I’d never grown up with dogs, and I had my hands full being Jamie’s sole full-time carer – did I really need something else to look after?
But as soon as Richmond, our bouncy Labrador cross Golden Retriever, came home with us, he started to make our lives better in ways I could never have imagined.
Just before Jamie turned two, he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
He’d been very ill, so finding out what was wrong with him was something of a relief. Though not curable, having type 1 diabetes is something that’s often manageable with an injection a day.
‘We can cope with that,’ I thought to myself. Soon, it became clear that this wasn’t the case.
Jamie’s blood sugar levels were never regulated, constantly being too high or too low. At age three, he had to stay in hospital for eight-and-a-half months for specialists to figure out what the issue was.
Ultimately, Jamie was diagnosed with insulin binding and releasing antibodies – a rare condition that means his body stores his insulin and doesn’t send it where it needs to go, making his blood sugar extremely high.
But if he got stressed, upset, excited, or experienced any sort of high emotion, his body would then release all stored insulin, causing his blood sugar to be extremely low.
A severe reading in either direction is a serious cause for concern. Low blood sugars can cause seizures, comas and possible death, while high blood sugars can also cause life-threatening complications, such as diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) – a condition caused by the body needing to break down fat as a source of energy, which can lead to a diabetic coma.
We left the hospital knowing that he’d need constant care. Jamie’s blood sugars needed to be tested between every 15 minutes and every two hours, 24 hours a day.
Seeing their relationship grow has been amazing (Picture: Naomi Walsh)
Someone had to be awake and alert with him at all times, so there was a rotation of night nurses at home to stay with him overnight, as well as nurses by his side at school.
But checking his levels at these regular intervals wasn’t always enough – he showed no symptoms of being high and low. He wasn’t symptomatic until it was almost too late to give treatment and we’d have to call ambulances between three and five times a week.
If Jamie gets too high or low, he needs IV treatments – dextrose to raise his levels, and insulin and IV fluids to bring them down.
Luckily, I …read more
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