Family hopes for dog to sniff out type 1 diabetes

For Bentley Seidel, 4 of Toms Brook, a type 1 diabetic alert dog could save his young life.

For Bentley Seidel, 4, of Toms Brook, a type 1 diabetic alert dog could save his young life.

Bethany Seidel, Bentley’s mom, sometimes wakes up every two hours to check on her son, worried he may not make it through the night. “With type 1 diabetes, we just don’t know,” Bethany Seidel, said. “There are so many highs and lows. Each day brings its own struggle.”

In July, Bethany Seidel and her husband Joshua noticed their son’s behavior had changed. At first it was subtle things like wetting the bed and constantly being thirsty. In September, the couple noticed Bentley’s mood had also changed.

“He looked depressed and extremely tired,” Bethany Seidel said.

“And much more hostile and violent,” Joshua Seidel added.

One night via a texting conversation the couple began discussing possible explanations for Bentley’s obvious health changes.

“I had a glucose meter from a previous pregnancy, and decided to test his blood sugar,” Bethany Seidel explained. “It came back high. Which I didn’t understand.”

She said she reached out to the one individual that she knew could help: her pediatrician. The outcome was not what she expected.

“The pediatrician’s office told me to take him straight to the emergency room,” Bethany Seidel said. Her husband was working, so she drove Bentley to the emergency room in Harrisonburg.

The news was devastating. Bentley was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

Unable to be treated at the emergency room in Harrisonburg, Bentley was medically transported to the University of Virgnia Medical Center, where he spent two days being treating while his family learned about his life-changing prognosis.

Tiffany Akers Hockman, of Strasburg, a family friend of the Seidels and a mother of a type 1 diabetic, has learned over the last three years that there’s a common misconception that all forms of diabetes are alike.

There are three types of diabetes: 1, 2 and gestational diabetes, common during pregnancy. According to the American Diabetes Association, type 1 diabetes is commonly diagnosed in children and young adults. Roughly 1.25 million Americans have type 1 diabetes and an estimated 40,000 will be newly diagnosed each year.

For those individuals who have type 1 diabetes, their bodies are not producing insulin, an important hormone that keeps sugar levels from getting too high or too low.

“Right now he’s in what they call a honeymoon phase,” Joshua Seidel said of his son. “His pancreas is trying to work a little, so we’re giving him less injections.”

But when Bentley’s pancreas stops working, the couple has to give Bentley up to four shots of insulin daily, depending on food intake and carbohydrates.

The family returned to Toms Brook where they’re trying to live their lives normally.

“His honeymoon phase means a lot more lows,” Bethany Seidel said. “It’s much more dangerous because it means he could die.”

With diabetes, highs and/or lows could be fatal.

“With a low he could fall asleep and go into a coma,” Bethany Seidel said. “And never wake up again.”

Which is why the family needs a diabetes alert dog.

Diabetic alert dogs are specially trained to provide independence, companionship and life-saving abilities. The human body releases various chemicals in the body that have a distinct odor that is commonly undetectable by humans, but are to specially trained dogs. By providing a saliva sample, the dog is trained to the exact chemical map of the saliva, which allows the dog to notice any change in their humans’ sugar levels by smell. By training the dogs in this manner, the dogs are better able to focus on the task at hand and exclude other scents they might pick up on the job.

The Seidel family decided to choose a dog from the Diabetic Alert Dogs of America. But the cost of the dog was more than they expected.

“A specially trained diabetic dog is trained to alert in advance of low or high blood sugar events before they can become dangerous,” Bethany Seidel explained.   “The dog will also be able to provide emotional security and a sense of balance.”

But at a cost.

A dog from Diabetic Alert Dogs of America costs $15,000. In the last five weeks since their return from the hospital the Seidel family has raised roughly $4,800 toward their goal.

“We have a ways to go. And we know that,” Bethany Seidel said. “But we’re confident we can do it.”

After hearing of Bentley’s story on the local news, an anonymous individual donated $1,000 to Bentley’s You Caring Fund, which gave the family considerable hope. Local organizations have also pledged to Bentley’s fund.

“We’re so incredibly grateful to the people who have donated,” Joshua Seidel said. “We’re doing it one day at a time.”

Bethany Seidel is working hard to get her son’s story out in the community.

“We want people to understand the warning signs and its severity,” she said. “Type 1 diabetes is bigger than people realize.”

Hockman agrees. “Everyone associates type 1 and type 2 together,” she said. “But they’re so incredibly different. If anything, I want Bentley’s story to spark a conversation about type 1 diabetes in the community.”

More information

Participate: – Bethany Seidel uses Facebook to post the various events she’s having to raise funds for the dog.