Living with diabetes can be a scary adjustment for anyone at any age.
For 16-year-old Emily Setterstrom, her Type 1 diabetes diagnosis came in kindergarten following a sudden and rapid weight loss. Her mother, Jennifer Setterstrom, remembers fearing the worst for her daughter since Jennifer lost her own brother to diabetes.
“I remember it was really scary in the E.R.,” Setterstrom told Good Morning America. “They were saying she could’ve definitely gone into a coma.”
Jennifer – like all parents of diabetic children – often keeps a close eye on Emily to ensure she’s within the normal blood sugar range. She also does her best as a mom to help her child go about her life as normally as possible.
The Setterstroms have learned how to cope with Emily’s disease together as a family, and they’ve also encountered the learning curve of how simple things like a diet change or exercise could put Emily’s life at risk.
“She’s a really responsible kid but I do get scared, especially at night,” said Setterstrom. “She can definitely go into dangerously low levels of blood sugar and that’s always brought on by activity and she’s a really active kid.”
As Emily has gotten used to living with diabetes – she now uses an insulin pump – the teen still sometimes worries about the worst scenarios.
“Whenever I go out I have to bring my test kit for my finger and I have to bring juice and extra insulin and stuff just in case something happens to me,” she said. “It’s just knowing that if I forget something if something bad happens, it’d be horrible.”
With her family’s support, AP student who is also on her high school’s varsity color guard team has managed a bit easier to live with the disease.
And with researchers coming out with new treatments on the horizon, the availability of these would make things even easier.
Dr. Ronald Tamler, an endocrinologist at Mount Sinai Health System, said, “There have been some incredible advancements. The technology is better and the treatments are better.”
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Some treatments include new medications that stop the destruction of cells that make insulin, an artificial pancreas that could make managing Type 1 diabetes completely automatic, and the use of diabetic alert dogs.
Diabetic alert dogs are trained to recognize the particular scent of a person experiencing hypoglycemia – as their body produces certain chemical changes. They are also trained to alert the diabetic person to these changes, as well as retrieve juice or glucose tabs, get an emergency phone, or get help from another person in the house, according to CanDoCanines.org – an organization dedicated to matching specially-trained dogs with people who experience a variety of disabilities.
While appearing on Good Morning America, Emily received a wonderful surprise. She was presented with her very own diabetic alert dog!
“I’m so happy,” Emily exclaimed as Jeanette Forrey, the owner and founder of 4E Kennels in Nevada, presented her with her dog.
According to Forrey, the dog will be trained specifically to detect Emily’s high and low blood sugar levels, which should take about one year.
“It’s awesome,” said Setterstrom. “I get that she wants to go to college and if I’m not there I’m just so worried. At night, going to classes, anything and now she’ll have this extra, I’m speechless.”
What a wonderful gift to receive – diabetic alert dogs are such a great idea since nothing beats both the loyalty and intuition of man’s best friend.
Trained dogs can help make life a little easier for those with diabetes — so we surprised 16-year-old Emily with a service puppy of her own for Christmas! https://gma.abc/2ZzRteQ
Posted by Good Morning America on Monday, December 16, 2019
Anastasia is an American writer and journalist living in Dublin, Ireland. Her Twitter is @AnastasiaArell5.