By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
Eight-year-old Lauren Sims wants a dog. But not just any dog, one that could very well save her life.
Two years ago, Lauren was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Now she’s working as an ambassador to Service Dogs by Warren Retrievers (SDWR) to amass the $25,000 needed to cover the costs of the pairing her up with a diabetic alert dog.
“They will have a trainer come up from California and spend four days with us to help us get to know each other and work together. It costs a lot,” said Lauren.
When Lauren was 6 years old, just after starting kindergarten, she began acting different than she had up to that point in her life, said Tania Sims, her mother.
“For a couple of days, Lauren woke up four or five times a night and go to the bathroom, then she would immediately want something to drink. That wasn’t something she typically did. On top of that I would be taking her to school and we’d be talking like we usually did and she would suddenly get hungry and demand something to eat,” Tania said.
After just a few days, Tania turned to the internet and began looking up the symptoms Lauren was experiencing. Every clickpath led to type 1 diabetes.
Tania took Lauren to the doctor and a blood test showed Lauren’s glucose levels at 500. For the average person, the number should be around 100. She was checked into Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland for a battery of tests in the following days.
Type 1 diabetes is the result of the body not producing enough insulin. It’s an autoimmune condition in which the immune system mistakenly attacks cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. Insulin controls the amount of glucose/sugar in the blood stream. Diagnosis means constantly checking blood sugar levels and injections of insulin to modulate one’s glucose levels.
The diagnosis put Lauren’s family into a tailspin for a few months.
“All we did was eat out because we could look at a website and find out how many (blood glucose) points everything was worth. A McDonald’s hamburger is the same every time and everywhere. It was a known quantity,” Tania said.
As her parents gained confidence in their ability to measure and monitor Lauren’s intake, the family started eating at home more and everyone was healthier for it.
About a year after her diagnosis, and with some experimentation, Lauren got a glucose pump that can dose her regularly and monitor her blood sugar levels which means fewer needle injections.
Lauren herself has also become a good monitor of her needs.
“If my levels are too high, I get a headache. When they are too low, I get shaky,” Lauren said.
The pump also allows her to partake of the things that were once denied her, like cake at a friend’s birthday party.
While Lauren is taking on a new role as an ambassador, her precocious and outgoing personality serves her well. When she has friends over to visit or spend the night, she turns it into an educational experience.
“A lot of my friends want to get tested when I do,” Lauren said.
A diabetic alert dog would change her quality of life for the better still. The dogs are trained to sense drops and spikes in their owners’ blood sugar levels and can alert them to the coming problem, get help, or even retrieve a juice box for them to drink.
While a diabetic alert dog will certainly help her personally, Lauren is already thinking about how she can use the opportunity to help others. She is currently working with the California Pizza location at Bridgeport Village in Portland for a year’s worth of fundraising activities.
“We are looking for someone with a diabetic alert dog to bring to Bridgeport, and I want to be able to do that for other people with my dog when I get it,” Lauren said.
To contribute to Lauren’s diabetes alert dog campaign, visit http://bit.ly/2mCwYag.