Blair Hill’s family hoping for diabetes dog

Published 12:27 am Saturday, July 23, 2016

By Elizabeth Cook

CLEVELAND — Todd and Melissa Hill have lived in Chatham County for several years, but they’re home in Rowan County today to get a little help from their friends.

Help, that is, for daughter Blair, who is hoping for a service dog to monitor her Type 1 diabetes.

Together, Todd and Melissa’s families and the congregation of Christ Episcopal Church are holding a spaghetti supper from 5 to 7 tonight to help Blair get this potentially life-saving companion.

“It means a lot that everyone wants to help us,” Melissa says.

The Hills’ jobs are in the Triangle area with IBM, but their roots are deep into Rowan County soil. Melissa, a graduate of West Rowan, is the daughter of Grady and Trudy Hall. Todd, a North Hills Christian School graduate, is the son of John and Mildred Hill.

Melissa and Todd have two daughters — Emma Grace, 7, and Blair, 5. Family life was going smoothly until the summer of 2012, when Blair, then a toddler, became very tired and thirsty. By the time Melissa took her to the doctor, the child’s body was limp. A quick blood test led to an emergency trip to the pediatric intensive care unit at UNC Hospital in Chapel Hill, where Blair stayed more than a week.

She had developed diabetes, and her life was forever changed.

So were her parents’ lives.

“We have to keep close tabs on her,” Melissa says, even getting up in the middle of the night to test her blood sugar. Blair’s glucose level can vary widely and is affected by more than the food she eats. Stress, a change in weather and other factors can be disruptive. “We’ve had some scary times.”

Right now she’s going through a growth spurt, Melissa says, something else that throws her off.

Blair wears an insulin pump and can use a continuous glucose monitor, but the adhesive burns her skin, her mother says. “We save that for critical times.”

Enter a four-legged glucose monitor, a diabetes service dog. Properly trained, the dog would be able to tell when Blair’s glucose level is not normal.

“The dog will be able to sense, based on the scent she gives off,” Melissa says, “and it will be able to alert us.”

A dog could even be trained to carry a juice box to Blair, Melissa says.

They live within 5 miles of Blair’s school. The dog would not go to class with her, but it could be able to sense changes in her blood from home, Melissa says. Since Melissa works from home, she could quickly alert and get to the school.

Blair is beginning to be able to tell when her glucose spikes or falls, her mother says. Her sight gets blurry and she shakes. After several years with a service dog, she should be able to sense the changes with more certainty.

These miracle dogs cost about $20,000 each. So far the family has raised more than $11,000 through a GoFundMe page.

The spaghetti dinner being served at the church, located at 3430 Old US Hwy 70, is free. The hope is that people will make a donation while they’re there.

If the Hills reach their $20,000 goal and get a service dog for Blair, their family would be ready to move into a new phase,” Melissa says. “It would give us an additional layer of confidence we don’t have now without pricking her finger and conforming.”