Is there anything sweeter or more inspiring than service dogs, those wonderful animals who help everyone from military service members and police, to children and adults with disabilities? We don’t think so either, and recent research indicates that dogs can be trained to sniff out illnesses such as cancer, diabetes and more. In one case in North Carolina, a 7-year-old girl relies on her service dog to pick up allergic inflammations long before machines can — not only protecting her life, but improving it.
Changing Her Life
KK Krawczyk suffers from mastocytosis, an abnormal buildup of mast cells. This can occur in multiple organ systems at the same time and cause a severe allergic inflammatory reaction, possibly resulting in fatal shock. Physicians told KK’s parents that she would likely never be able to go to school as even the mildest change in body temperature can cause a potentially dangerous reaction. No time is safe; her parents must stay alert for changes in KK’s condition, even during nighttime hours.
Then came JJ, the new addition to the family. And everything changed.
A Terrier Named JJ
JJ, a rescued terrier trained in scent detection by a North Carolina nonprofit service dog agency, came to KK’s side after a plea for help from the Krawczyk family. JJ can smell changes in KK’s body long before cardiac and other machines can. After only one month, according to the Krawczyks, JJ woke KK up by licking her. KK told her mother that her throat felt like “a ball” was inside it, and four minutes later, the cardiac machine indicated a serious change in her condition. JJ can also fetch KK’s medical kit in the event an allergic reaction occurs.
KK also demonstrated an allergic reaction to surgical anesthesia. The next logical step? Bring JJ to the hospital, of course, so he can smell changes in KK’s condition, even during surgery.
“She alerts the hospital staff before all their fancy equipment can,” Krawczyk told ABC News. “JJ was a better indicator of when things are starting to go wrong than all the monitors,” she added.
Nine Months of Training, a Lifetime of Change
Incredibly, JJ only needed nine months of training to learn to detect the scents that could wind up saving KK’s life. Originally trained to detect diabetes, JJ alerted another family member — who did not know he had the condition — to seek help. In KK’s case, the Chapel Hill-based service dog agency trained JJ to recognize the scent of mastocytosis with a saliva swab and sweat on clothing KK wore when she suffered a reaction.
Today, KK and JJ go to school together, as KK’s mother sits in the back, quietly working. For the first time, KK can sample the normal lifestyle of a healthy girl, until JJ alerts her that a problem is developing.
“JJ [has] singlehandedly done more than any medical person has done,” KK’s mother told ABC. “JJ has given KK a new lease on life and the ability to lead a normal life.”
Read more at ABC News