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Health Team

Duke Children's, service dog make a big difference to sick child's care

Posted April 24, 2015

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— The dog lovers in the Krawczyk family call service dog JJ "the best medicine" for 8-year-old KK, who suffers from a rare condition.

JJ was originally trained to alert a diabetic when their sugar level was too high or low. She was retrained to help KK with her disorder.

KK's mastocytosis or mast cell activation disorder causes the body to produce too many mast cells, which contain inflammatory compounds that respond to allergens. Those allergens are not things like pollen, dust or different foods, so it's more difficult to anticipate what will trigger an attack.

"Sometimes the triggers are clear. Sometimes they are things we know: heat, cold, changes in temperature, illness, fatigue, stress. Those are some of her biggest triggers," KK's mom, Michelle Krawczyk, said.

The heat at the Krawczyk's old home in Florida became an ever-present trigger, so they moved to North Carolina's more moderate climate. It was there that they found specialists at Duke Children's Hospital.

"I really realized what amazing care she got once she got to Duke," Michelle Krawczyk said. "It was a big difference from where we were in Florida."

Part of that care comes from JJ.

She is able to sense and smell the chemical changes in KK's body and alerts the family before KK has an allergy attack.

JJ barks, and, when she senses the reaction will be dangerous, she runs to the cabinet to retrieve KK's medical kit, which includes an epinephrine injector.

"Because we have JJ, she is now able to tell us early when things start to escalate so we can remove the trigger and medicate if we need to," Michelle Krawczyk said.

KK can now play outdoors with other children and go to school, things she couldn't do before JJ.

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