Community Connection

January/February 2012

Port Arthur News - Community Connection

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6 • JANUARY/FEBR U A R Y Community Connection A guardian angel for Racer Diabetic alert dogs can be lifesavers By Mary Meaux Community Connection GROVES — Bounding from one piece of playground equipment to the next, 3-year- old Racer McLeod didn't pay much atten- tion to his parents watching nearby. The toddler moved fluidly, eagerly tack- ling a swing, a glider and a slide then climbing through box-like tunnels as his twin brother, Ryder, and other toddlers played together during Mother's Day Out at Groves' First United Methodist Church. As playtime came to a close and lunchtime approached, the tike became hungry. But before he was allowed to eat, he had to do one very important thing — check his blood sugar. "Which finger?" his father, Ryan McLeod, asked before the finger stick came. Racer McLeod was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes on Sept. 23, 2010, and had his first diabetic seizure on Nov. 25. The family now lives minute to minute. "Throughout the day me and my wife, Tara, are constantly checking Racer," he said. "We check his activity level. What was his blood sugar level before activity? How many carbs has he had and how much insulin?" The McLeods are trying to raise funds to purchase a Guardian Angel Service Dog that will be able to detect dangerous changes in Racer's blood sugar. A benefit is scheduled for 11 to 3 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 11, at Precision Autobody in Nederland. In Type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce insulin, a hormone that is needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy. While extremely high blood sugar levels are dangerous, extremely low levels can lead to seizures, coma and death. Racer's blood sugar level is checked between eight and 10 times a day, and he gets insulin shots three to four times a Mary Meaux/Community Connection Racer McLeod, on swing, enjoys playtime during Mother's Day Out at Groves' First United Methodist Church as his twin bother, Ryder, sits with their mother Tara nearby. Racer has type 1 diabetes and his family is raising funds to purchase a diabetic alert dog. day. That's about 3,285 finger sticks and 1,095 shots a year, according to a Youtube video made by his parents titled "Racer's Guardian Angel." The dog could be a lifesaver for Racer, the father said. "Even with our best at trying to keep it (blood sugar) normal, it happened to us," he said of Racer's diabetic seizure. Type 1 diabetes affects every aspect of Racer and his family's lives. "With diabetes, whether his sugar is up or down, it affects everything," he said. "It affects his attitude. Any time he's not lis- tening, you may think of putting him in time-out, but before I do, I check his blood sugar. If his blood sugar is high or low, he will act up. He's not the same kid he used to be. We're trying to get that kid back." Since the onset of diabetes, Racer isn't the same carefree child who played all the time. With activity comes changes in blood sugar. "He still does everything normal that any other kid does," he said. "We try to keep his life as normal as possible, not treat him any differently, not hold him back." Mary Meaux/Community Connection Ryan McLeod, left, uses a diabetic testing meter to check the blood sugar level of his son, Racer, 3. By Mary Meaux Community Connection Diabetic alert dogs — able to detect dangerous fluctuations in blood sugar — can be life saving. "You and I can detect a teaspoon of sugar added to a glass of iced tea. The dog can detect the smell of the teaspoon of sugar in an Olympic-size pool, with chlorine, people and air breathing all around," Dan Warren of Diabetic Alert Dogs by Warren Retrievers and Guardian Angel Service Dogs, said. "They are actually sensing the core of the body. When we test blood sugar, the fin- gertips are in the extremity. It takes more time to get from the heart to the fingertips." The keen sense of an alert dog's smell is 100,000 more powerful than that of a human, he added. The Guardian Angel Service Dogs are a non-profit organization and partner the dog with a family at the family's home. Dogs are placed with families at the age of 3 1/2 months. Once the dog arrives, the trainer will stay with the family for up to five days and come back periodically until the dog is fully trained to the diabetic's scent, which takes between 18 to 24 months. "The way it works, as a diabetic, when blood sugar fluctuates, there is a chemi- cal imbalance. It has not been identified but is very similar to pheromones. When blood sugar is high, the body will give off a very sweet, cotton candy like smell. And when low, will give off an acetone, fingernail polish remover-like smell. The dogs pick up on this about 20 to 45 min- utes prior to the fluctuations giving ample opportunity to make adjust- ments." A type 1 diabetic with adult onset, Warren calls the disease an "invisible disability" because it is difficult to look at a person and tell if they are diabetic. Warren's dogs do more than detect the fluctuations, he said. They are also able to retrieve a juice box or diabetic essen- tials and are able to dial 911 on a spe- cial devise with a prerecorded message for emergency. For more information about Guardian Angel Alert Dogs, visit the website at www.diabetesalertdogs.com BEST ICE PRICES IN TOWN 3 LOCATIONS TO SERVE YOU 3760 Pure Atlantic - Groves 3220 Nederland Ave. - Ned. 3661 Twin City Hwy. - P.A. 20 lb. Bulk 16 lb. Bag or $ 1 7 5 25 ¢ $ 1 00 per gal. Water for 5 gal. Water WE SELL PURIFIED WATER TOO! CREDIT CARDS ACCEPTED

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