"Nine years ago I was a healthy fourteen year old who was gaining independence and enjoying planning the future ahead however in June 2006 following glandular fever I was diagnosed with type one diabetes. What I thought was a simple chronic condition suddenly changed my way of life completely.
Months after my diagnosis, I was frequently being admitted into my local hospital with fluctuating blood sugar levels. A normal blood sugar should be between 4 and 7mmols, mine was fluctuating between 0.5 and 39mmols. As a result I would be regularly found unconscious due to high or low blood sugar levels.
Ten months after my diagnosis my condition became life threatening and I was transferred to the Leeds General Infirmary where numerous blood tests were taken and it became clear my body was fighting the insulin I require to keep me alive. Although I needed the insulin, it was in fact making my condition worse.
My health was deteriorating and each new treatment failed to work. Eventually, I was given an unlicensed and high risk drug, with unknown side effects which proved effective and after three and a half years in hospital I was delighted to be discharged from my hospital bed in January 2011 with a team of nurses to monitor my blood sugars at least hourly. My health is continuing to slowly improve and I am thoroughly enjoying being back at home.
Due to the extreme fluctuation in my blood sugar levels, I have no warning signs when my blood sugar is too high or low which can lead to emergency medical assistance. As a result my independence was restricted however after reading about Medical Detection Dogs I began to have a glimmer of hope that maybe with the help of a specially trained assistance dog; I could start to gain some independence.
That glimmer of hope became reality in October 2011, when Holly arrived in Yorkshire and completely transformed my life! Before getting Holly I was informed she was very much a Princess – goodness knows why they thought her and I would be a perfect match – Holly's sparkling tiara is still positioned proudly on the top of her head and mine, well it is somewhat slipping! Four years ago I would never have imagined I would be walking in all weathers, usually ending up getting drenched and my hair going frizzy, waterproofs becoming my everyday fashion and that I would be woken in the morning with an affectionate lick of the face to tell me it’s time for walkies!! I may not have been an animal lover before getting Holly but do you know what, despite saying what I have I wouldn't change a single thing because if you hadn't guessed already I am completely and utterly besotted with her!
When I applied for a Medical Alert Assistance Dog, I always had at the back of my mind whether a dog could actually cope with the fluctuation in my blood sugar levels and the prolonged high and low blood sugars I can have! From the very first day Holly arrived, she experienced what life was going to entail living with the girl who had been diagnosed with a one in 6.7 billion condition! Could she cope? Would she alert? Did she detect a change in odour in my blood sugar levels? Of course she did! Within weeks of Holly and I being partnered together, she began to recognise and alert both high and low blood sugars. She alerts me by licking my hand forcefully, pawing me or going to fetch the kit and bringing it back to me. I still remember the first time Holly came and alerted me, the day I sat on the sofa completely oblivious that my blood sugar was crashing into dangerous levels and thanks to my little super dog and her incredible nose, she saved my life with a simple sniff!
After hearing how Holly helps me, people often ask me "has she ever needed to alert you?" The answer to that question is most definitely a YES! Since being partnered together, Holly has alerted me over 2,000 times for a high or low blood sugar, excluding those alerts she has done for a rapid increase or decrease in sugar level! When I realised Holly had alerted me so many times, it hit me even more so, just how much of a life saver Holly is! Although I think she knows she is special, I don't think she realises just how lost I would be without her in my life now!
Since being partnered together, a day has very rarely gone by where Holly hasn't needed to alert me at least once! I don't think she had even been with me for a month when she showed me just how incredible she is; twelve hours, twenty eight alerts and a girl who would have previously been admitted into hospital was snuggled in her own bed with her little life saver beside her! Before Holly, a day like that could have resulted in a hospital admission due to a hypoglycaemic seizure or diabetic ketoacidosis but thanks to Holly’s regular alerts, so far we have been able to manage my condition at home. A huge achievement and step in the right direction after previously spending three years in hospital!
I am amazed at how far Holly has come since being partnered together. I know firsthand what a difference it makes having a dog like Holly. I knew Holly would transform my life but I don't think I realised to what extent, I certainly do now though. She is my friend, my life saver and my gateway to independence and I am very much looking forward to the future ahead with her by my side every step of the way. Medical Detection Dogs have given me the greatest gift of all and something no one else could ever give me."