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February 25th, 2014
By John D. Golenski, Executive Director, Hanuman Medical Foundation
Now and then this blog takes a break from reporting on developments with islet encapsulation and the Islet Sheet to report on someone living with type 1 diabetes. The end goal of our scientific quest is a practical cure for diabetes – but until then, we want to share stories and information that can help people with the disease live better.
Recently we were contacted by the family of Jordan Malcott, a 16-year-old from Lizella, Georgia, who was diagnosed with type 1 four years ago. Jordan, who plays piano and marches in the band at Tatnall Square Academy, is considered a brittle, or labile, diabetic, subject to wide, hard-to-control swings in her blood sugar levels. “Your sugars really go haywire,” says Jordan. Her body does not recognize high and low blood sugars, and she has endured many episodes of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), a life-threatening complication of type 1 that can lead to seizures, coma, even death. Jordan’s life has been interrupted by more than 15 hospital admissions in the last two years, forcing her to miss much high school time.
Continuous glucose monitors and insulin pumps weren’t doing a good enough job of tracking or stabilizing Jordan’s erratic blood sugars. Then she and her family learned about Diabetic Alert Dogs: specially trained companion dogs that can literally sniff out high or low blood sugar levels before they reach a danger point, and alert the diabetic to take action.
A dog “would notify me before my sugar reaches to the point where my body becomes insulin resistant, so I’ll be able to do something about it and will not end up in the hospital or extremely sick,” Jordan says. “Knowing that the dog can possibly catch it before it got as dangerously low, that’s the reassurance you have,” adds her mother, Karen Malcott.
The catch is cost: a Diabetic Alert Dog can cost up to $20,000, and it’s not covered by medical insurance. (For perspective: If a dog averted just one hospitalization for Jordan or another patient, more than $20,000 would be saved.) So Jordan did what today’s teens do: she put together a video and reached out on social media for help. To date, Jordan and her family have raised more than $5,000 through the crowd-funding site they created. She is also working with her school to hold fundraisers and raise awareness of type 1 disease. “It’s really nice to know that my family, friends, and even strangers care about this,” Jordan says.
Despite everything, Jordan is headed for college in another year, and a Diabetic Alert Dog will help make this transition easier. If you’d like to help, please visit their funding site.
Any donations received beyond their goal will help with the dog’s training and ongoing veterinary needs, related travel and lodging expenses, and specialized equipment and supplies such as service vest. The Malcotts also hope their quest will help other children that need a Diabetic Alert Dog. Find out more information about the dogs.