Jayden is 9 years old and lives with his mother, father and 4 year old brother. He is an active young man who enjoys playing baseball and basketball, loves riding his four-wheeler, boating, riding go-carts, and playing in the dirt and mud with his trucks and tractors. The dirtier he gets, the better he likes it! Jayden is a good student in the 3rd grade and loves learning. Jayden also has Type 1 Diabetes.
Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks insulin producing beta cells in the pancreas. Over time the body in unable to produce its own insulin and has no way of getting rid of excess sugar. The sugar builds up in the body and levels become so high the person may develop Diabetic Ketoacidosis or DKA. DKA can lead to coma or death. Currently, there is no cure for Type 1 Diabetes, which means that in order to survive he is completely dependent on receiving insulin through injections.
In October 2014, Jayden started to get very tired and irritable. He was always thirsty for water and started having accidents at night which never happened. I called his pediatrician and they requested we come into the office where they checked his blood sugar. Soon after, they took me into a room alone and told me my son had diabetes and I needed to take Jayden straight to the hospital emergency room. They had already been notified of our impending arrival. So, with just the clothes on our back, off we were on what seemed the longest ride of my life. All Jayden wanted to do was eat and go home. On October 22, 2014, just one month after turning 8 years old, Jayden was admitted to Mercy St. Johns Pediatric Intensive Care Unit with Type 1 Diabetes.
Jayden’s blood sugar had been over 500 (normal range is 90-180) and his A1C was 12%. Before this day, we had no idea what Type 1 Diabetes was. For the next 3 days, Jayden, his father and I spent every hour being trained by a diabetic educator and a dietician on how to keep Jayden alive by managing his diabetes diagnosis. But, that was only the beginning to the days ahead. So full of questions, overwhelming emotions, and only 3 days of training, we started on our journey home with what would be the daily routine for the rest of our lives. Our days would be filled with worry, reading food labels, counting carbs, measuring and counting each piece of food, complicated calculations to determine insulin to give and many NO’s and I’m sorry son, you can’t have anything to eat yet.
That first trip to the pharmacy was additionally overwhelming. We had no idea what all these medications and tools were: meters, test strips, gauges, short acting insulin, long last insulin, needles, thyroid pills, key tone strips, and emergency kits if he was to go low. There were so many things still to be learned —the highs, the lows, how activity can stay with you for up to 24 hours, how taking a warm shower or bath can drop your blood sugar, how sick days would be more challenging than normal, how scar tissue would build up making insulin doses not effective. Unfortunately, I know more learning and new challenges are to come.
As a type 1 diabetic, Jayden receives 4-6 shots a day (depending on what he eats) and has his blood sugar checked via a finger prick 7-10 times a day. We often wake in the middle of the night around 3am to check his blood sugar to make sure it hasn’t dropped while sleeping. Quarterly, Jayden visits his endocrinologist which is always followed by bloodwork to check his A1C levels and thyroid.
As healthy people without Type 1 Diabetes, we will never know what it is like to have your body on a constant roller coaster of what it is like to feel so low one minute and then so high the next. With T1D, you can’t just jump in the car and run to the park, or the store, or anywhere without a bag packed with all the supplies and snacks you may need to treat a low. You have to become your child’s shadow—going to birthday parties, school trips, being available for a text or phone call if grandparents or friends need help with carb and insulin calculations. We try to have Jayden treated like every other child, just with a heightened awareness of what needs to happen with his care to keep him safe and healthy.
When a child learns he or she has Type 1 Diabetes, it’s life-changing. It is a condition that has to be managed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That’s a lot for a child to take in. While frequent finger pricks and insulin injections are of utmost importance, there are a lot of emotional strains attached such as fear, shame, a feeling of being left out or different. If, your child has ever had a dream of being a pilot, or going into the Army, Navy, Marines, or Air Force, those dreams are crushed because people with T1D are not allowed to do these things.
On March 11, 2016, my father, Glenn Eisenbeis passed away. During the weeks leading up to his death, I read about diabetic alert dogs (DAD’s) through a post on Facebook. Learning more about them were a way for my mother and me to pass the time during long waiting room stays. We realized immediately how wonderful it would be for Jayden and our family to have this extra layer of protection in his diabetes care, to catch the rapid highs and lows that happen on a daily basis and how strong the love and companionship between Jayden and a dog could be emotionally for him.
Diabetic Alert Dogs help their handlers with more control over their blood sugar levels. DAD’s are trained using scent detection when changes in the body odor occur as a result blood sugar levels going out of range. DAD’s are trained to alert their handlers of this change or alert parents or caregivers if they are non-responsive. The result is more efficient blood sugar control which in turn leads to improved health for the diabetic, both long and short term. DAD’s are trained to be obedient in public places and are allowed to accompany their handlers through the Americans with Disabilities Act and state legislation.
After my father’s death, Jayden’s grandmother, Dianna (nee Whiteaker) Eisenbeis, suggested we honor him with a memorial fund designated to begin the fund raising efforts for Jayden to have a DAD. My father was very concerned when Jayden was diagnosed with diabetes and would call me several times a day to check on him. I think he would be pleased to know that through his death, Jayden would benefit in this way. We would in a way, be losing one dad and gaining another. I can’t help but wonder is this isn’t a part of a much bigger plan.
T1D never takes a break. It’s a constant worry. Although, our daily routine of blood sugar checks, carb counts and insulin calculations won’t change, having the assistance of a DAD, would lighten the load and help with those in between changes we are not likely to catch and lessen the chance of further complications this disease may have on Jayden’s life.
If you would like to make a donation to help us reach our goal of $20,000 you can use the PayPal link on the homepage of Canines of Hope webpage. Simply put Jayden’s name in the ‘donation for’ box and that will allow all donations made in his honor to go directly towards payment for his Diabetic Alert Dog. All donations are tax deductible. You will get a receipt confirming your PayPal donation or you can email Canines of Hope to request a receipt. Email: email@example.com
Or you can mail a donation, with Jayden’s name in the memo line to: Canines of Hope, 4911 Schneider Rd., Ann Arbor, MI 48103. (Checks payable to Canines of Hope)
Thank you for reading Jayden’s story and if you’ve been moved to contribute, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your generosity. It is truly appreciated.
John, Janel and Jayden Schnurr