Nikki came home from camp yesterday bursting with happiness as a result of a marvelous week spent with long time (and a few new) D friends at Camp Korelitz. Camp does many things for Nik, one of them being that it firms up all the morale and inner strength she uses as she faces each and every day of her life with type 1 diabetes and celiac disease. D Kids are a truly remarkable bunch. Camp seems to help them draw strength from each other, in turn helping them face the coming school year and all that that means for a T1D.
Another thing camp does is give Nikki and her friends insight on the latest technology regarding the care and control (ha ha) of your T1D. Sometimes, this new ‘technology’ or self-esteem building idea comes in human or animal form. A few years ago Nikki and her friends were introduced to fellow T1D (or PWD depending on your preferred term) Olympian Kris Freeman. This year, the campers were introduced to Pete, a 2 year old black lab; look at that adorable face - pictured above.
Pete is a specially trained ‘diabetes assist dog’. He can literally detect when a T1D’s blood sugar is beginning to drop. A T1D faces a daily battle for control of his/her blood sugar and is faced with the consequences of the disease in ways that are sometimes just flat terrifying. A big one is low blood sugar. A very real and extraordinarily dangerous reality for all T1D’s is becoming incoherent or unconscious thus facing the possibility of death because of low blood sugar.
Pete is trained to handle situations in which his person is unconscious or unable to help him/herself – which also helps lessen the possibility of death due to low blood sugar. He knows the signs, and can retrieve a juice box or designated snack for his person in the event that person cannot help his/herself. If his person is unconscious, there is a special phone – for Pete’s use only – that will allow him to ‘call’ 911. Pete is a walking, furry, diabetes miracle in our book.
According to the ICAN (Indiana Canine Association Network), the organization behind the training of these dogs: “Dogs possess a highly developed sense of smell. Whereas humans have about 5 million olfactory cells (which provide the ability to smell), dogs have up to 220 million. That super smell sensitivity is believed to give the dogs the edge in sniffing out biochemical changes in people with type 1 diabetes when undergoing a hypoglycemic event.” ICAN and Eli Lilly have partnered to train diabetes assist dogs. Click HERE for a quick video about Pete.
Pete spent the whole day at camp with all the kids and made quite an impression. Of course, Nikki wants to get on the waiting list for her own diabetes assist dog. With her entrance into high school this year, she’s been thinking about college quite a bit, and being able to live independently has evidently been on her mind. There is an application process and I don't have all those details YET. I do know that it ICAN reports the cost as being upwards of $25,000 per dog for training……ouch! But then again, what is the price of a life that is saved by one of these special friends?
We’d like to say a very special thank you Pete the dog and his trainer for taking the time to come hang out with so many T1D kids and teens. You made camp especially memorable this year, and added an extra little punch of HOPE for all the campers – and those that love them.