**Update - First goal met! Thank you to everyone who supported me as I set out to reach the initial deposit for my service dog. I am so thankful, but the work is not complete just yet. Please continue to share my story with others so you can help me to reach the next goal of $3,125 before October. Thank you all!!
This story has been a struggle to write as its purpose lies in some of my most extreme challenges: making myself vulnerable and asking for help. But life doesn’t often allow us to remain comfortable and thus, I am forced to grow.
Please consider helping me raise $3,125 in the month of June for the initial deposit to SIT Service Dogs for a service dog to assist me with the impacts of Hypokalemia Periodic Paralysis. Any donation, no matter the monetary size, makes a world of difference.
If you would like to learn more about my story, please click the 'updates' section as it has a detailed history of my condtion and a description about the process of obtaining a service dog. Thank you for your support!
**For those who prefer to donate using PayPal, please follow this link: paypal.me/barkforindependence
I just received word that the newest litter in training is the litter my service dog will be coming from! He or she is 13 weeks old and they are all yellow labs. This dream is slowly becoming reality. Thank you all!
As I sit here sweaty and tired on what is possibly my last day with this beauty, I am continually reminding myself why I am making this choice as well as what matters most to me in this world. The second part is easy: my family and my health. The first part is not so easy to digest.
This car is not just a car and things are not just things. We apply meaning to each item we own and when the time comes to part, emotions take hold. That meaning may be based off of a feeling, a memory, or a certain time in our life. For me, this Mustang represented a certain time in my life. It was a symbol of how far I had come with my health and where I could go from there. I envisioned taking this car with me on life's adventures, with a sense of freedom as I went from 0-60 and left the world behind, if only for a couple hours.
But life didn't take me on that adventure, rather it led me down a dark and narrow path. Only ten months after declaring this beauty mine, my seizure/hypokalemia episodes increased significantly and I stopped driving. Three months later Lyme took hold and told me it had plans of its own. Im back to driving again, but those dark roads and unexpected plans cost us over $20,000 so far, and they are far from over.
So, I evaluated. Financially, selling the Mustang is a no-brainier, but the emotional implications are many. I'm not just giving up a car I materialistically love, I'm giving up a piece of myself to illness. What may hurt the most is the fact that this isn't the first time. When I first developed (undiagnosed) HypoKPP, I made the decision to sell my first owned car. I wasn't able to drive, so every month I watched money fly out of my pocket and into something completely unused. I had to say goodbye.
We spend an average of $1,500 every month on my medical supplies. This past month was the highest at $2,700. Insurance doesn't cover Lyme treatments and my HypoKPP is treated hollistically. Recently, they have stopped reimbursing us for my IV antibiotics to deal with chronic infections.
So why am I spilling my sob story now? Because I still need your help. I'm so thankful for the donations toward #BarkforIndependence up to this point, but we still have a long way to go to reach $12,500. We'll continue to cover my monthly expenses, and after selling my car be able to steal less from savings each month. But I need you to continue sharing my story, donate if you're able, and PLEASE help me to organize a fundraiser if possible. I can't do this without you.
I never thought I would be in a position where I would begin to wonder if this day would be my last. But since receiving an official diagnosis of Hypokalemia, each time an episode of paralysis/seizures hits, I lay here wondering if I'll make it through this time.
For eight years I learned to work around my seizures and never once panicked when an aura began (ok, maybe I panicked the first few times). However, since learning that my seizures are not only neurological but also cardiac related, a fear takes over. I never believed my life was in danger, only inconvenienced and debilitated, but now I know the dangers each episode brings.
I was on the phone with Nathanael -my husband- when one hit today, and it breaks my heart that he has to be so far away and worried for me. Not to mention, I'm alone. Because of his deployment location, if I needed an ambulance he would not only have to hang up with me, but contact someone with an iPhone who can then call 911. By the time that all takes place, minutes would have passed.
I can't wait to have my service dog! He/she would have the ability to physically protect me during an episode as well as an emergency button to automatically send help to my location. Please continue spreading the word and this update if you could. Thank you all for your continued support.
*Excuse any jumbling or typos, I am still post-ictal from this most recent episode.
I am at a loss for words as I sit awestruck looking at the current donation amount. Thanks to an extremely generous, anonymous donor, I am only $105 away from the amount needed for the initial deposit to SIT Service Dogs. Thanks to the kindness of this unknown person and to those of you who contributed to my cause, I feel confident in signing the contract and officially beginning the two year wait for my service dog! We still have a long way to go, but my determination has been renewed. I can't thank those of you who have shown support enough.
In early 2009, just a year into my short stint in the Air Force, I became extremely sick experiencing convulsions, episodes of paralysis, loss of vision, extreme fatigue, and a myriad of other symptoms. Like most 19-year-olds, I felt that I had my whole future ahead of me and I was determined to make my time in the military meaningful. Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity. I was averaging three seizure-like episodes a day, made countless trips to the ER, and bedbound, but my condition went undiagnosed. My (now) husband was my caregiver and savior, and I’m certain he has saved my life more times than either of us realize. I was medically discharged and am considered disabled through Veterans Affairs. My condition improved and declined over the years as I focused on my health through nutrition and a low activity lifestyle– still not having a clear idea of just what was causing my seizure episodes.
Jump forward to today, I now have a diagnosis of Hypokalemia (a dangerous drop in Potassium) which includes episodes of Hypokalemia Periodic Paralysis (HKPP). I know, a lot of big, technical words but stick with me. Hypokalemia can be life-threatening and is not a condition that I will ever be free from, but I now know what I am battling and how to respond. As I searched for a diagnosis, I continued to persevere and set out to pursue goals common to 20-something-year-olds. I enrolled in school and when my health stabilized, I began working a full-time job. These were the greatest two years of my life...but far too short lasting. I had requested too much of my body and in turn, my body rebelled. HKPP in combination with what would later be diagnosed as Chronic Lyme Disease threw me back to where the struggles all began. This is where I am today.
A typical HKPP episode for me does not give much notice, if any at all. I will have anywhere from two minutes to five seconds to secure myself either on the floor or on the bed. For the times without notice, I am forced to the floor from where I stand as my legs collapse and my arms are deemed useless. The weakness and paralysis arrive first, causing pain and a sensation throughout my muscles so intense that after eight years I am still unable to describe. I remain conscious, but am unable to speak, swallow, keep my eyes open, or move. I am left helpless. Once the convulsions stop, I am left unable to move for minutes to hours. When I force my body to move before I have recovered, another episode ensues.
My husband knows exactly how to respond. He has gone through this with me since day one. He carries me to a safe place, props my head up so I can breathe and do not choke, restrains my body to lessen the pain of convulsions, and stabilizes me so I can walk once recovered. But HKPP doesn’t wait for my husband. I currently experience 6-8 episodes per week. My husband is currently deployed, but HKPP doesn’t care.
I have reached a sense of autonomy in the past, but no matter how close I come to accomplishing my goal of independence, I must continue to rely on those closest to me. This determination has led me to seek alternatives for my care, and this is where my service dog will come in. I am 27 years old and significantly reliant on others when my health becomes severe. I am not one to ask for help and if you know me, you know I have silently struggled as I attempt to overcome these challenges on my own. Most of you may not realize how severe my condition can be, as I choose to not reveal that part of my life. But as I have now made myself vulnerable through my story, I am asking for your support as I move through the service dog process with SIT Service Dogs (Supporting Independence through Teamwork) in Ava, IL.
“My” dog is currently moving through basic training, learning 50 commands in the first six months of his/her life. Once SIT discovers which dog will be the best match for me according to my physical needs and personality, they will begin training the dog to respond to my episodes. She will be able to perform every task that my husband completes for me… short of carrying me. Once we have bonded, he/she may be able to alert to a HKPP episode before I feel the shift in my body. In doing so, episodes could be shortened or prevented. The entire training process will take approximately 24 months and costs $12,500 due to the vetting, caregiving, and in depth training. The payment schedule consists of four payments of $3,125.00, the first of which I need to raise this month for the contract to become effective and my 24-month countdown to begin.
Thank you so much for reading my story and sharing this part of my journey with me. If you feel led to support me and my soon-to-be service dog through donation or sharing of my story, I would be so grateful. http://www.sitservicedogs.com/