Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Learning

It’s fun to introduce Dixie to new people. Especially people who know something about diabetes. It’s even more fun when Dixie alerts me when I’m low and others get to watch.

Doctors have a hard time believing that a dog can know when blood sugars are not in the optimal range. Sure, the doctors that I have contact with smile nicely and appear supportive. People think that if I just tested more, I wouldn’t need a silly dog. In fact, before I got Dixie, several people asked me if I had ever tested my blood sugar before. If only it was that easy.

Hypoglycemia unawareness is a challenging problem. I used to get autonomic symptoms (sweaty, shaking, etc.) when my blood sugar dropped under 80. (except at night when I haven’t ever awoke to symptoms.) Now I’m lucky to have symptoms when I’m 50. Most likely I don’t have symptoms until 40. Then I’m not smart enough to make good choices, and I drop even lower. It’s not pretty.

I work to keep my blood sugars in a very tight range. The side effect of this is more frequent lows. What I have found with Dixie, as many people have probably found with continuous blood glucose monitors (only my monitor is furry, cute, snuggles and can wake me up when I’m low or push the Life Alert button to activate help), is that she knows when I have too much insulin on board. She knows when I am going to drop too low. Like yesterday I finished a lunch and gave a bolus for 35 carbs. An hour later, Dixie started alerting. She was pawing and pawing at me, then jumping on the table when I was working with kids and pawing the kids. (she has learned which kids are reliable and safe to approach) I tested. Blood sugar was 134. I had some insulin on board from lunch. I had another 15 carbs of Gatorade and tested a half hour later. Blood sugar = 86. If I had not had the 15 grams of carb, I would have gotten low. This way I added a little carb, went on with my teaching, and never had to deal with confusion and low symptoms. I would have never tested to find out that I was 134. In training, I used to say “wrong” to Dixie for alerting when I was 134. Then over time I learned. She knows.

I don’t recommend a service dog for everyone with diabetes. It’s not magic, nor is it perfect. You have to love dogs. Check. You have to be able to develop a strong bond with the dog. Check. It takes work to train. Check. And in the middle of a spelling lesson, sometimes they have to go outside to go to the bathroom. (or chase rabbits ;-) For the right person, like me, it can be the best.

3 comments:

Bernard said...

Molly

That's amazing, I didn't know dogs could warn you about upcoming lows.

I was reading the story to my wife and both of us were tearing up over it. We're thrilled for you.

Thanks for telling us about Dixie, she must be an incredible dog.

Scott K. Johnson said...

Amazing.

I do believe that the body does "do something" when the balance is not right, meaning too much insulin on board, even though the blood sugar is Ok.

I've had many times where my blood sugar is fine, but I had lots of insulin on board. It's not the sensation of a low (which I'm fortunate to still have most of the time), but rather something different. Very hard to explain.

It is fascinating to me all the things that Dixie can do (even the simple act of pushing that door button!).

MileMasterSarah said...

Molly,
Thank you so much for commenting on my blog! I was so excited to come over and read yours! Wow, there is so much to comment on. Dixie is awesome! I too cannot feel my lows until I am in my 30’s or 40’s. I’ve considered a dog, but I know that with my two children and my itty bitty apartment, it probably isn’t a good option for me. I added you to my blogroll, that way I can be sure to keep coming back and reading more!