In 2013, we received the following story by email from a family in the Southern United States:
“My 13 year old son was given an assignment in English class to write a personal narrative. Perhaps by sharing this, others can have a greater understanding of a child’s perspective and bring about awareness about the need for a cure to this horrible disease. (*names in the narrative have been changed.)”
Here is his story:
Two Saved Lives by: Dallas D.
This is the story about how life changes, people adjust. A story about how I saved a dog’s life from being ended and about how he ended up being not only my best friend and loyal companion, but my hero as well when he saved my life. He continues to protect me every day, just as I protect him.
I had not felt well for a few months. My mom had taken me to the doctor just about every week telling them something was not right. The doctors knew our family history, and knew that my dad had died the previous year of complications of Type 2 Diabetes. My mom told the doctors that I was lethargic and unmotivated. I was not running around and playing like I usually did. I complained about my legs, back and chest hurting, and then all of my joints followed. I was using the bathroom constantly and drinking a lot. I had lost my appetite almost completely. I dropped forty pounds in just 5 months. My color went from a rosy pink healthy skin tone to dull, gray and pale one. Each night I told my mother that I felt like I had a hole in my chest, and that I was going to die. Each time we went to the doctors they acted like we were crazy. I remember my mom talking to my Grammy and telling her that she felt like the doctors looked at her like she had 9 heads and 20 eyes. They told us that I was just going through teenage hormone changes and pre-teen growing pains. My mom requested that the doctors to run some tests but they refused. They saw nothing wrong. She asked them to test my urine; they told her it was unnecessary, that I just wanted attention.
Mom asked them to test my blood, but the pediatric nurse stated sternly, “We do not test kids unnecessarily.”
Mom knew something was not right with me.
One Saturday night in early December, at 10:30 as I went to bed I began to cry because I felt so awful. I told my mom my vision was going black and white, and my kidneys hurt. My mom immediately called the doctor and told her what was going on. Dr. Stone said it was probably just a kidney infection, and that it could wait until Monday. Mom told her she was taking me now to the local emergency room.
The doctor said, “it’s not necessary.”
My mom and I went to the hospital emergency room. When we got there I could barely walk. I was placed into a wheelchair at the entrance door and they took me right into triage. The nurse took a sample of my urine and immediately I was whisked into a room by the nurse’s desk. We changed into a gown and as soon as I was finished the doctors, nurses and orderlies surrounded me and held me down and stuck an IV in me as I struggled. We did not know what was going on.
My mom stood up and yelled, “Stop! What is going on?”
A male nurse shouted frantically, “He is diabetic and we need to get his blood sugar down now as it is 604!”
We were told that there was a risk of seizure and coma, and if my mom had let me go to sleep that night I would have died!
The head ER doctor cried out, “Call for MED-EVAC, or an ambulance whatever can get here first!”
Totally terrified, I was crying and mom was too. She stood beside me hugging me tightly. I knew she was just as scared for me as I was. I also knew she was trying to be strong for me. I couldn’t help but think I was going to die like my dad. My mom called my Grammy, who lives nearby to go look after my older brother, Kent. She told her that I was diagnosed with Diabetes and we were headed to Children’s Hospital in Savannah, Georgia. The ambulance arrived and my mom and I were rushed into the ambulance and rushed to Children’s Hospital.
We arrived at Children’s Hospital at about 12:15 in the morning. My mom told me later that at one point in the ambulance I must have been feeling a little better because the medic in the back of the ambulance kept me talking, and I asked them, “Where we were going?”
The EMT replied, “Children’s Hospital at Memorial in Savannah.”
I jokingly asked, “Could stop at Toys R US on the way to the hospital?”
After all, it was near Christmas, and we don’t have a Toys R Us near where we live.
We all laughed lightly and mom replied quickly, “Not this time honey.”
When we arrived, we were immediately taken to the ICU immediately, placed in a room right by the nurse’s desk, where I would be for the better part of a month. The next morning my Grammy, Gramps, and brother, Kent came to see me. I was so sick with a migraine they all just sat there quietly and prayed. I could hear mom crying with Grammy in the hall. My Grammy is Diabetic too. Kent was scared for me too. The next day when we met the Pediatric Endocrinologist, Dr. Rosen, I had a really bad migraine. I had had the migraine since the day before. The lights were so bright, and the slightest sound was amplified to be so loud. They would not give me anything for my migraine until the doctor saw me. He tried to shine a bright flashlight in my eyes, but the light hurt so much that I could not keep my eyes open. I could not make eye contact with Dr. Rosen due to the migraine.
Dr. Rosen asked me some questions, “What was my name? When was my birthday?”
I whispered the responses to him. Any sound or light hurt so much! He expressed concern to my mom about a tumor, and asked her if I had ever been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. My mom told him no. I knew this upset her because my brother was already diagnosed with many mental health issues, and he was enough to handle. As a result of what Dr. Rosen had observed, he ordered a cat scan of my head. This was later followed by an MRI of the brain. Thankfully no tumors were found. Once I was stabilized, I was moved from ICU to the pediatric wing of the hospital. The rooms were a lot bigger and did not have all that scary equipment, wires and tubes in them. We learned that I had Type 1 Diabetes, and would have to take injections the rest of my life in order to live. The education of Type 1 Diabetes and how to manage it and live with it was just beginning. There was not much rest at the hospital. It was very noisy, and there seemed to always be something urgent happening. Every two hours someone would come in and stab my finger to check my blood sugar, and change the IV bags. Mom stayed right beside me around the clock.
I finally was starting to feel a bit better and they let me go down to the kid’s playroom and borrow some cards and video games. Dr. Melanie, a resident, even came back after her shift and played a card game called Phase 10. She was a lot of fun. I had some great nurses too that would look in on me, even if I wasn’t their patient that day. It was a week before Christmas, and I was so sad that I was in the hospital. There was a chance I might go home in time for Christmas.
There was always so much activity at the hospital. They had it decorated, but all I could think of was that we didn’t even start decorating at home. No tree, no presents, no cookies made-I could not eat them now anyway. The Savannah Sand Gnat mascot came to see all of us kids, so did a bulldog with a Georgia sweater on-it was the Georgia Bulldogs mascot. We learned that he was a service dog, kind of like the dogs that lead the blind, but he helped detect blood sugar lows and highs, detect cancer and low oxygen levels. That was kind of cool.
We got the news Christmas Eve Day we might get to go home. We were finally released later that night. We arrived home at 11:58pm, just 2 minutes before midnight the night before Christmas. I was happy to see my brother Kent. It sure was good to be home! Mom got us settled in our beds.
Today was Christmas, and I was glad to be home, but still nervous and scared. Mom must have worked all night because when we woke up the tree was up and decorated, and a few presents were under the tree too! I know she was tired, but I sure was happy to see all those decorations and smell the scent of Christmas wafting through our house at last.
Once Christmas was over, the harsh reality set in. I was just 11 years old and Diabetic! Our lives would never be the same again. I now relied on shots of insulin six to eight times a day to keep me alive. I had to test my blood frequently to check my levels of glucose in my blood. I had to have carbohydrate counts on everything I ate so we could figure out how much insulin to give me. I would soon find out that this counting and my numbers would be changed almost weekly to keep my glucose where it needed to be. I would forever have to take injections of insulin for every meal and at bedtime. This is tricky and dangerous if you do not do it right. We had some success and a lot of issues because I kept bottoming out with my blood sugar. We learned quickly that I did not always know when my blood sugar was diving. I was what they call glycemically unaware.
My mom kept researching ways to manage this horrible disease. She found about an organization that trained D. A. D. s-Diabetic Alert Dogs. The waiting list was very long and the cost was not within our reach. We watched many videos on YouTube about people training their own dogs to do this. It looked cool. I did not know that my mom was thinking about getting me a dog. I had always wanted a yellow Lab. After all, we had 7 cats, and a year before dad died my favorite cat Sunny had died, and I still miss him today.
Then in early January, my mom was on Facebook, and saw a post made by a friend of a friend. She had posted a picture of a little yellow Lab puppy that she either had to find him a home within the week or she was going to take him to a high kill shelter. Mom called me over to the computer to show me his picture.
I looked at him and immediately proclaimed, “I would name him Max.”
I asked what his name was, but we did not know. All we knew was that he was 10 to 12 weeks old, and needed a home. Mom asked me if I wanted to go meet him. Then she stated that it didn’t mean he would be coming home with us.
The next day, we took a long ride to someplace out in the country in Georgia. When we got there, the yellow pup was playing outside and running around. I had never been around dogs, only cats, so I was a little nervous. He came right up to me and licked me in the face! That was different, I thought! I played with the ball with him while mom spoke to the lady. Mom told her that we were thinking of training a dog to be a diabetic alert dog to help take care of me. The lady was originally asking $200 for him. He was a pure yellow lab, but no papers. That didn’t matter to me.
I called out and asked the lady, “What’s the puppy’s name?”
She yelled back at me, “Max!”
I stopped running around immediately. Mom and I looked at each other and knew it was meant to be. They lady said that because we were going to train Max to be a service dog we could have him for free. I was so excited!
I asked mom, “Please?”
Next thing I knew, Max was coming home and we would be best buds! We saved his life.
About a week later, I got really sick and ended up in the hospital again. This time I had to stay in the hospital for 2 weeks. My brother Kent took care of Max and my Grammy helped take care of both Kent and Max. I could not wait to get home and be with my new pup.
Once home we were able to get Max into obedience training classes. First he went to Beginners class, then Intermediate class, then Advanced class, finally he graduated from Good Citizen class. During all of these classes we worked with Max at home too. Trying to get him to realize when I was low and high with my blood sugars. When summer came we enrolled Max in Water Rescue class. He was able to train in the mucky bottomed May River, the sandy bottom of the Atlantic Ocean on Folly Field Beach on Hilton Head, and a saltwater pool at a fellow classmate’s home in Rose Hill Plantation. I think he liked the pool the best. I wished we had a salt water pool at home. He can rescue me well now.
Last summer, my family and I had gone to the pool earlier in the day. I did not feel too well. I thought it was the heat, so I didn’t say anything. My sugars seemed okay. That night I went to bed with Max by my side as usual. At 12:30 in the morning he woke me and mom up. He brought mom to me. She shook me to wake me but I could barely talk. Mom tested my blood sugar and I was 29! Normal is between 80 and 150 for me. Mom acted quickly to get my blood sugar up and stabilize me. She had to give me juice and we would have to retest my blood every fifteen minutes until I was at 80. Then I would have to have a 15 gram snack that would have protein and a little fat to stabilize me. I had peanut butter crackers. Things were really foggy to me, and I was not able to stand or walk.
When I was back in the normal range I asked what happened and mom told me, “You have a very bad sugar low while you were sleeping, and Max came and got me.”
She smiled. I did too. Max was right beside me and I gave him a big hug!
“You saved my life buddy! Thank you! I love you Max!”
He lay down beside me and looked me in the eye and smiled at me.
All I can say is that if we had not saved Max’s life, then he would not have been there to save my life. I love my dog and will always be there for him. I know he will always be there for me too. Do you have the heart to adopt and find a forever friend to be your loyal friend?”