Jasper woman raising funds to acquire diabetic alert dog
by Jennifer Cohron
Mar 16, 2014 | 1366 views | 0 0 comments | 110 110 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Chassidy Hester refills her insulin pump this week at her home in Jasper. Hester has been living with Type I, an irreversible form of diabetes, since she was 11 years old. Daily Mountain Eagle - Jennifer Cohron
Chassidy Hester refills her insulin pump this week at her home in Jasper. Hester has been living with Type I, an irreversible form of diabetes, since she was 11 years old. Daily Mountain Eagle - Jennifer Cohron
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Chassidy Hester has been living with Type I diabetes since she was 11 years old.

Hester, now 28, is thankful for a full week of education that she and her family received at Children’s Healthcare at Scottish Rite in Atlanta following her diagnosis.

Armed with this knowledge, Hester has been able to manage her diabetes and avoid common complications such as blindness and amputations.

However, two years ago, she encountered an unforeseen obstacle — hypoglycemic unawareness.

Hester no longer has typical warning symptoms of low blood sugar, such as shaking hands. Instead, she relies on family and friends to notice personality changes that signal a problem.

Even their concern is sometimes not enough to make Hester act against her own instincts.

“Your brain needs so much glucose to work properly, so when I’m low, checking my blood sugar is the last thing on my mind. I am not thinking correctly,” she said.

Hester checks her blood sugar regularly. She also has an insulin pump and a continuous glucose monitor.

The technology is useful for detecting high blood sugar, but there can be as much as a 30- to 45-minute delay in picking up a low blood sugar.

Hester faces her worst fear each time she goes into insulin shock while she is home alone.

“I can’t even tell you how many times my kids have woken up late on a school day and found me still in bed, or they’ve come home and had to call the paramedics because I’m still in my nightgown on the recliner,” Hester said.

Her children — ages 8, 10 and 11 — plead with her to check her blood sugar each morning as they get on the bus for school.

Then, an ordinary day for Hester turns dangerous without warning. Only her body’s stores of the hormone glucagon have kept her alive so far.

“I go to sleep and don’t wake up until I’m in an ambulance on the way to the hospital. I’ll think, ‘I need something,’ but I don’t have enough energy to get up and do anything about it. Or I have dreams that somebody comes to help me, but really I’m still laying there passed out,” she said.

Several years ago, Hester began researching diabetic alert dogs.

The animals are trained to smell the chemical changes in a diabetic’s body and warn of an impending rise or fall in blood sugar levels.

Earlier this month, Hester and her husband met with a Gardendale resident who purchased a diabetic alert dog from Virginia-based Service Dogs by Warren Retrievers.

The service dog, Maggie, gave Hester a warning during the meeting that her blood sugar was getting low.

Health insurance does not cover the $25,000 price tag for a diabetic alert dog.

Hester is holding out hope that she will be able to raise the initial $1,000 needed to get her name on the list for a dog and then raise the remaining balance in the three years as required.

“They are so much better than the best technology that we have,” Hester said. “They can smell a high or a low before a human would ever pick up on it. They can do different alerts so you know which way it’s going. They can go to the refrigerator and get juice, and they can even dial 911. It’s amazing what peace of mind that it would bring to me and my kids.”

Hester recently started a personal fundraising campaign on the company’s website, www.sdwr.org. Her page is titled “A DAD for us.”