At age seven, Brystin Fleetwood was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. After five years of battling the condition, the 12-year-old Bloomington girl does not sense when her volatile blood sugar dips too low. Thankfully, a brown-and-white rescue dog who stays always by her side can.
After her diagnosis, Brystin spent the first few days in the hospital learning about the dangers of diabetes and how to control her blood sugar to keep it from getting too high or too low.
Brystin falls into the 20% of diabetics that can experience extreme drops in their blood sugar without any warning. If her blood sugar drops too low, she could pass out or have seizures.
At first, she was given all sorts of devices to monitor and regulate her blood sugar levels, but even so, Brystin’s mother felt uncomfortable knowing that she was still “hypoglycemic unaware.” That’s where Gracie comes in.
Originally a rescue dog, Gracie is now what is called a diabetes dog. She has been specially trained to be able to detect changes and dramatic blood sugar shifts through Brystin’s saliva.
When Brystin’s blood sugar drops too low,Gracie delivers a gentle nose bump to her hand, letting her know it’s time to test her blood glucose level.
After about 15 minutes, Brystin will recheck to see whether she needs more insulin to counteract high blood sugar or needs to eat something to bring a low sugar level back to normal range.
When Brystin is moving around, Gracie stays attached to her with her leash wrapped around her waist, and never sits more than a few inches away from her when she is moving around.
“She makes me feel almost safe,” said Brystin. “Because I know I won’t get that feeling as often as I used to, and I always have a companion.”
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