Shirley J. Davis
Living with any type of chronic illness, be it physical or emotional, is extremely difficult. Living with the effects of a mixture of both is not only highly traumatic, but can be very dangerous. Such is the case for a friend of mine by the name of Jill Sparks.
I met Jill a few months ago on Facebook. She is, like myself, a survivor of a severely traumatic childhood and lives with Dissociative Identity Disorder. We hit it off immediately, and it wasn’t long before Jill began telling me about her trials with not only DID and accompanying Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, but Type I Diabetes from which she has had to contend with for over forty years. She told me how the stress of dealing with her childhood trauma and the treatment we who live with DID must endure to get well, have taken a heavy toll on her medical health. She has begun to have problems with her gait and balance, plus her blood sugar sometimes swings wildly causing complications that could cause her severe harm or even death. She has the condition “hypoglycemia unawareness” — a condition in which a person with diabetes doesn’t experience the usual warning symptoms of hypoglycemia. Usually, when a person’s blood glucose drops, the body tries to raise it by releasing the hormones glucagon and epinephrine causing a myriad of symptoms ranging from shaking to confusion, but her body does not. This leaves her extremely vulnerable.
The solution to her problems with the above conditions is simple and beautiful, she needs a service dog. There are many different types of service dogs with the one the public is the most familiar with being the seeing eye dogs that accompany people who cannot see either well or at all. However, there are special dogs who can be trained in techniques that would help Jill immensely. They can “smell” when she is going into hypoglycemia and alert her to the danger, so that she can check her blood sugar and take appropriate action. They can also be trained to “calm and clear”. This phrase simply means that the dog would recognize that Jill is having a panic situation or has switched into an altered state, and would immediately begin to circle her to clear people away so that she can regain her calm thus avoiding a meltdown in public. This dog would also be able to check things out if Jill should become anxious. If the dog finds that the danger Jill is responding to is real, it will bark or do other behaviors to alert her. If the danger is an internal response, as in the case of a flashback, the dog would return to Jill and begin to utilize calming techniques such as putting its paws on her chest to be a reassuring presence.
The fundamental problem with most people in Jill’s position is that although we may desperately need this assistance, obtaining a service dog is extremely expensive. A typical service dog runs $15,000-$30,000 to meet her needs. It is for this reason that I am trying to raise awareness, not only of Jill’s plight, but of the needs of people like her everywhere.
Just like with the sight impaired, a service dog can mean independence and an increase in a person’s quality of life. In Jill’s case, it can also be a life saver.
I would like to ask my readers to consider giving a donation to help Jill get her much needed service companion. She has set up a website (listed below) where you can make a donation of any size. Every dollar will go towards her gaining the companion she so desperately needs.
Whether you are able to contribute or not, please consider sharing with all of your contacts this blog article. Every time you share, there is an increased chance that Jill’s dream can be realized.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart.