Look at us, with a guest poster and all! Krista is a young woman I so admire. She’s forthright and honest, even admitting to times she has not been the perfect person with diabetes. She’s funny and caring. She reaches out and helps so many. When she explained to me why she had decided she needs a Diabetic Alert Dog, it just made sense. I’ve been reading and learing a lot about these amazing dogs, but I’ve had some questions. Krista’s story is one that just made me say “Absolutely!” Read on. I know — it’s longer than usual, but worth the time.
I’m Krista Middleton. Wife to Nick, Mommy to Cooper (4) and Wyatt (1). They are my loves. I was an elementary school teacher before I had my sons, now I stay home with them and try and do the best I can at this “stay-at-home” Mommy thing. I live in Wylie, Texas (a small little town just minutes from Dallas). I love the color red, wearing warm pajamas, baking, getting letters in the mail, and going on vacations. Oh, I’m also a type 1 diabetic…and have been for almost 27 years.
Krista and her beautiful family. A D.A.D. can help her know that her son's have four paws that will help her when she needs it.
When I was 21 months old my parents awoke in the middle of the night to what they describe as the sound of a hurt animal screaming in the woods. To this day they cannot explain the sound they heard coming from my room without getting emotional. I was the only one in the house other than them, so they knew it was me. My parents brought me to the children’s hospital in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada where we lived. Doctors did test after test but nothing came of them. My Dad suggested I be tested for diabetes (remember, this is YEARS before the internet when trying to figure things out was next to impossible for parents). The doctor assisting us told my parents that since nobody else in our families had diabetes that I did not in fact have diabetes. More tests were run. Two days later a doctor had come to the hospital from India and walked into my room. She did not speak English and had a translator with her. She took one look at me and told the translator “that little girl has diabetes.” We don’t know much else about that doctor, other than the fact that she diagnosed me on the spot as a diabetic and our world was turned upside down.
My parents kept me on a very tight leash when I was young. My Dad took charge of my medical needs, keeping my blood sugars next to perfect. Mom and Dad became medical professionals overnight. Back then diabetes was so very, very different. Diabetics could not eat sugar. No sweets for us. No birthday cake with icing. If we went to a birthday party, the icing had to be scraped off. We could only eat vanilla ice cream because any other flavor would probably have too much sugar from the flavorings added. We didn’t carb count. Pumps were unheard of. Sleepovers never happened. One of my first sleepovers was in late high school. I was at my best friends house and was so excited because my parents were finally letting me spend the night away from home. Guess what happened? Phone call in the middle of the night to my parents saying “Krista is convulsing, what do we do?” Luckily my Dad had drove me over to my friends house 2 days before and knew where to go in the middle of the night. I don’t remember many sleepovers after that one.
After graduating from high school I applied to Oklahoma State University and was accepted. I was beyond excited! My parents were too. I know now that they were terrified to let me leave the house and move an hour and a half away, but they never said they didn’t want me to go. I went off to college, but came home every weekend for the first two years. I got into some trouble with drinking while there. Nothing crazy, just lazy with my needles and checking my blood sugars. I hear most of us go through it, but I look back and regret it. I’m really lucky I woke up one day and decided I had had enough of the craziness and finally started taking care of myself. I also got pregnant with my first son right around the same time.
My mom had gotten really sick and my husband and I didn’t want her to die without a grandchild. My A1c’s had been high for years and in my mind I really didn’t care. I truly lived my life pretending I didn’t have diabetes. I have never been one to openly talk about life with it, until recently.
My diabetes went from bad to good overnight. I found an endo who understood that pregnancy and diabetes is hard, and perfect numbers all the time are impossible. I was very fortunate to have incredible doctors who praised my hard work. Cooper was born 5 weeks early via emergency c-section. He was 8 pounds 8 ounces. I knew we had big babies, but wow! It wasn’t long after I had Cooper that my blood sugar levels started to become unpredictable.
Nick called the house from work one day and told me “Krista, go check your sugars, you’re low.” I fought him, like I always do when I’m low. “No, I’m okay.” I don’t remember ANY of this. When I am really, really low like this I don’t know what’s happening, I am like a zombie who is extremely out of it. I am writing this from what Nick has told me, not what I remember. He said he instantly left work to come home because he knew things weren’t right. Work was 25 minutes from our house. When he got home I was unconscious, convulsing on the floor in the hallway of our house. Cooper, who was 2 at the time, was hitting me with a kitchen whisk trying to wake me up. I woke up to paramedics putting me into the ambulance asking me “Do you know your name? What day is it? How old are you? When’s your birthday?” I don’t remember anything before that. My arm is now attached to a large IV with a fluid that is “liquid sugar” being pumped into my vein. I’m coming back to reality, but then the nausea takes over and I’m sick. The IV fluids made me vomit, which lowers my blood sugars again forcing me to try and eat and drink constantly until they get back to a safe level without going too low and putting me unconscious again.
Then there was the time I was 10 weeks pregnant with my second son. My older son, who was 2, and I were grocery shopping at Walmart. I felt myself going low (if I do notice myself going low, I get extremely tired, start to convulse/shake, can’t think straight, can’t focus, start to lose my hearing, etc) so I got glucose tabs out of my purse and ate a handful of them. I was eating them and nothing was happening. I was so disoriented that my brain wasn’t telling me to just open a juice from the grocery store and then pay for it later. There had been a young guy shopping up and down each aisle behind me. I KNEW he had seen me pushing a baby in my shopping cart. I was so weak from my blood sugars being so low that I had to LEAVE my 2 year old son in the meat aisle to stumble to the man. I finally got to him and said “I need help.” I was later told that I collapsed into his arms. I woke up sitting in a chair, surrounded by paramedics, beside Cooper still in the shopping cart. I forgot I was pregnant. I had IV’s in my arms. We were surrounded by Walmart executives (who happened to be doing a walk through at the store that day) and other employees. One employee was standing beside Cooper making sure he didn’t get out or leave my side. Another employee had been sent for juice for me. A third was standing beside me in charge of the chair I was sitting on. The man I had collapsed onto called my husband and told him “your wife has collapsed at Walmart.” Nick drove to the store and parked his truck at the front entrance, beside the firetruck and ambulances who still had their lights flashing. Just a typical Friday morning in the life of a diabetic.
Two days later was Superbowl Sunday. We had been invited to a friends Superbowl party. We had spent the previous night at my parent’s house because they were going to baby-sit Cooper while we went to the party. I was getting ready when pregnancy exhaustion (or so I thought) came over me. My parents had no idea we were pregnant because we wanted to wait until my second trimester to surprise everyone. I woke up to find myself being overpowered by paramedics who were trying to get the glucose IV started. When I’m unconscious because of these lows I fight. My body doesn’t understand what is happening. Imagine being completely asleep and suddenly having people on top of you holding you down. You don’t know what is happening. I remember saying to my mom as the paramedics were leaving “Well, that’s one way of finding out.” My mom wasn’t sure what I was talking about, so I said “you know, finding out I’m pregnant.” The paramedics had been able to keep my pregnancy a secret from my parents while treating me…I unfortunately didn’t know that because I don’t hear anything when I’m unconscious. I blew the surprise. 😦
Nick came home from work last March to find me convulsing on our bed. I had taken an afternoon nap while the kids were sleeping and had passed out during my nap. Cooper was running around the house and Wyatt was screaming from his crib. Nick couldn’t wake me up on his own so he had to call 911. I remember waking up to the voice of a paramedic saying “she’s only 12, how is she still alive?” I have never heard of a blood glucose level that low, and apparently they hadn’t either. My arm had been flushed with a liquid glucose from the paramedics when that reading was taken so who knows how low I had actually been. I didn’t have to go to the emergency room that day because I started to do better within minutes of the IV. The rest of the evening was spend being cold and sore and extremely fatigued. These are all typical symptoms after a low blood sugar. My hand was so sore where the IV had been too. I thought I was just being a baby about it. The next morning my hand was red and swollen. By the afternoon I could no longer open and close it. It was now purple. We ended up going to the urgent care where the doctor on duty said “I can’t help you, you need to go to the emergency room right now.” So off to the ER we went. I ended up being diagnosed with cellulitis. Doctors said that when the paramedic put the IV into my vein and “flushed” it, that it was in the right place. The problem was while I was convulsing the needle must have dislodged causing all the IV glucose to go into my skin, rather than in the vein like it is supposed to. It has been 11 months since then and I still wake up with a swollen hand 4-5 days per week.
Cooper is always asking me when I check my blood sugar if I’m low. We have practiced over and over how to call 911 and what to say. My brother was 3 the first time he called 911. My Mom didn’t even know he called because she was so busy trying to get me back to consciousness. Cooper is now 4 and I know one of these days he will need to call and that terrifies me. I don’t want my kids seeing me like this. My biggest fear is having one of my kids find me dead. Its hard to say that, but even harder to write. Looking at those words is more than any mother should have to think about. I am supposed to protect them, not terrify them. When an ambulance or fire truck goes by with its lights or siren on Cooper always says “are they coming for you.” I don’t want my sons to fear the people who are out there to help us and protect us. I need help.
We recently decided as a family that we had to do something for all of these lows. We thought about a CGM but they are often “off” and I didn’t want to risk that. I needed something that would help me detect the highs, but more importantly the lows. I needed help. I heard about Diabetic Alert Dogs. They sounded strange but I was interested in learning about them. I didn’t want one though, I just wanted to hear about what they were and what they could do. I began talking to a local mom who has a “D.A.D” for her two kids (both of whom are Type 1’s). She didn’t tell me all the details I was interested in though. I decided to pick up the phone and call the company she got her dog through to find out more. Forty five minutes after hanging up the phone with Warren Retrievers I was hooked. I spoke to my husband and he was just as interested as I was. I learned that these dogs are trained over a 2 year period to warn their owners about highs and lows. The dogs can get anything I need when a high or low hits. If I need my glucometer, the dog can get it. My medicine bag, they can bring it to me. If I need a juice, the dogs are trained to fetch me a juice. Warren Retrievers/Guardian Angel Service Dogs are the ONLY Diabetic Alert Dog company endorsed by JDRF. I was blown away. I have spent so many years of my life loving JDRF and everything they stand for, and then I find a D.A.D who is endorsed by them? I was still going back and forth though. I think I was still thinking of getting a “pet” dog, and that isn’t what I wanted. I wanted diabetes help. Then I heard what I had been needing to hear. Dan Warren, President and CEO of Warren Retrievers said “by the end of the dogs two year training, the dogs are trained to call 911 if nobody else is in the house to help you.” I had to have one. Within three weeks of that phone call we had placed our deposit for my D.A.D.
I am excited and nervous. I was caught off guard by the price of these dogs (my dog will cost $19,500.00). Gasp, I know. I was surprised with how unshocked most people have been when I tell them the price. “Krista, that is the cost of 2-3 emergency room visits a year. We pay that anyways,” was my husband’s response. My parents both said “to know that you will wake up every morning, twenty thousand is nothing.” My parents have often said they never slept well until they saw how good my husband was with my diabetes. I know my husband cringes when business trips come up that he has to go on because he has told me how he lays in bed wondering “is she okay?” I remember when he was out of town a few years ago and I didn’t answer the phone the next morning. I was busy doing typical daily things. The only thing my husband said he could think of is “she’s low and I can’t get to her.” I will soon be able to put an end to my fears, and my families fears. I am really lucky to be surrounded by amazing people who are wanting to help me. I am thankful for so many great readers like all of you who took the time to listen to my story. I have been working on fundraisers to help cover the cost of my D.A.D. If you would like to help me, please visit the Guardian Angel Service Dog’s website. At the bottom of the website is a link that says “Donate Now.” Once you donate your money, Dan Warren will write you an email back asking who you would like to donate too. Krista Middleton, me, would be forever grateful for any donation you are able to help with. Please make donations on the following website: http://guardianangelservicedogs.org/