Dog could be a life-saver for Rowan boy

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 25, 2012

By Shavonne Potts
EAST SPENCER — Sometimes Olympia Smyre is fearful son Amarion’s diabetes will reach such a dire stage even she won’t be able to get to him in time.
Amarion, 8, has some developmental delays that at times prevent him from being able to express to his mother that his blood sugar has reached dangerous levels.
“He falls into the autism spectrum,” Smyre said.
He has characteristics of autism. Amarion is developmentally three years behind his peers.
Amarion has Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), meaning he does not fully meet the criteria for another autism spectrum disorder or has some, but not all, characteristics of autism.
“He can’t tell all the time when his sugar is low,” Smyre said.
Smyre is working to raise money so her son can receive a diabetic service dog. She connected with Virginia-based, Guardian Angel Service Dogs, which will train a labrador retriever to sense when Amarion’s glucose levels are dangerously low or high.
Smyre heard about the company through Abigail Eagle’s family, who has a service dog.
The family’s latest fundraiser is Saturday at Applebee’s from 7-10 a.m. Tickets are available in advance and at the door for $7. Applebee’s is located at 205 Faith Road, Salisbury.
There have been times Amarion’s levels have been so low in the middle of the night that he was unresponsive.
And there have been a few emergency visits to the hospital when nothing seemed to work.
Smyre has an emergency glucose kit called a Glucagon, much like an EpiPen for an allergic reaction. She must inject glucose into Amarion to return his lood-sugar levels to normal. The emergency kit is essentially pure sugar or glucose.
Amarion must check his glucose level 10 to 14 times each day.
He copes as well as a child could getting pricked that many times. His fingers have calluses from being pricked so often, she said.
“He fluctuates,” Smyre said.
A dog would be able to detect the fluctuations in Amarion’s blood sugar levels as soon as 40 minutes before his levels were low.
The dog would be able to alert Amarion and Smyre in the middle of the night if his levels are low as well as retrieve his test kit.
The family was invited to a meet and greet with a family who has a service dog.
At the time, Smyre admits she was skeptical until the dog alerted to one of the children in the crowd whose blood sugar was high. When the trainer asked which child had the high level, the dog pawed at Amarion’s forehead.
Smyre said she wasn’t so sure it was her son until she tested him.
That one incident made Smyre a believer.
Amarion was diagnosed with diabetes August 2006.
He began urinating more frequently and lost a lot of weight, Smyre said.
When Smyre took her son to the hospital she thought Amarion had a bladder infection, but doctors told her his blood sugar was 476, much higher than the normal 80-130 range.
He wears an insulin pump that provides doses of insulin every hour and it is programmed to readjust when he has a meal.
Meals are carefully considered for the entire family.
“We all pretty much eat the same thing,” Smyre said.
Everyone refrains from certain drinks and foods including carrots, corn and peas because of the high sugar content.
Amarion can only eat a certain amount of carbohydrates at each meal. And all of his food is measured.
Prior to the insulin pump, Smyre had to give her son insulin shots about 46 times a day.
Smyre works full time at John’s Child Development Center and will soon be heading back to school.
The fundraisers are a family affair with Smyre’s other two children, Amaddé, 11, and Kiera, 5; mother, Brenda Adams; sister, Teressa Smyre; and niece, Zyaira, 13, helping wherever they can.
The family will pitch in during the pancake fundraiser acting as servers and clean-up crew.
For more information about advance tickets for the Applebee’s pancake fundraiser, contact Smyre at 704-957-1794 or Brenda Adams at 704-267-5549.
The family will take part in another fundraiser, a Harley Davidson Benefit ride, on Aug. 4.
Registration begins at 9:33. The event will take place at Pat Rogers Speedway Harley-Davidson, 10049 Weddington Road, Concord.
For more information about the benefit ride, contact Smyre or Crystal Jones at 704-892-0243 or 704-995-4365.
Future fundraisers are in the early planning stages including a Zumbathon and one at Chuck E. Cheese’s.
The money raised will pay for training and accompanying support services. Eventually the dog will be able to accompany Amarion to school at Hanford Dole Elementary.
The dog and subsequent training costs $19,000 to $20,000.
For more information about Guardian Angel Service Dogs, visit Donations can be made via the website with Amarion Smyre in the subject line. Checks can be sent to the company at P.O. Box 910, Orange, VA 22960.