Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Man's best friend trained to predict seizures

By Christian Price, News9.com INsite Team
In an instant, a family's world was turned upside down by an epileptic seizure.
Kelly lived with epileptic seizures since the age of 13. Ultimately one took her life at the age of 28. Her family decided to turn their tragedy into something positive and to help other families so that they wouldn't have to experience what they did.
Kristen Spears established The Lady Bug Foundation. The foundation's mission is to provide special assistance dogs that are trained to detect the onset of seizures.
"We started the foundation in memory of my sister. She had an epileptic seizure," Spears said. "We started it in memory of her so that we could provide assistance dogs for other people that have epilepsy so that we could improve their quality of life."
Spears learned of special assistance dogs through her sister.
"Actually, before my sister passed away, she was interested in trying to get one. That's kind of how I heard about it through her," Spears said. "I thought, ‘Well, I'll try and do that for other people.'"
The foundation raises money several ways including the sale of barbeque sauce, which is a family recipe. The funds raised go toward the purchase and training of qualified dogs that are ultimately placed with people who suffer from epileptic seizures.
Angel Soriano is the president of K9 University. He is the master trainer of the specialized dogs.
"We start them very young. We start them at eight to 10 weeks of age. We start the selection process, we test them, we find the right specimen and then we go through the training," Soriano said. "The training lasts about 18 months and once fully trained they end up in some needed home; somebody that has seizure spells and needs this type of assistance."
The dogs are taught to recognize several changes that occur within a person's body that precedes an epileptic seizure.
"There are electrical changes that occur in the body. Scent changes occur and the dog will start triggering on those scents and the electrical changes," Soriano said. "Once they trigger, we teach them to do certain duties like getting somebody or getting medication or dialing 911. There are a number of assistance points that we can teach them to do."
The Lady Bug Foundation is in constant need of support. They accept monetary donations or you can help out by simply buying a bottle of barbeque sauce.
The foundation will be hosting a fundraiser on May 30 at Yukon National Bank Peoples Branch, 6201 NW 23 in Bethany. They will be selling fresh grilled pulled pork barbeque sandwiches along with chips and bottled water for a $5 donation.
For more information about the foundation, log on to www.theladybugfoundation.com.

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