A diabetic alert service dog known as Jedi has become a family hero after recognising a hypo that a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) could not spot.
Luke Nuttall is seven years old and has been living with type 1 diabetes since he was two. Night-time hypos present a worry for Luke, and his mum Dorrie, because Luke doesn’t wake up when he is has a hypo. To compensate for this, Luke has a CGM and also his service dog Jedi.
Jedi is a black Labrador retriever that has been trained to recognise low blood sugar levels and alert Dorrie if Luke’s sugar levels are too low.
The way some dogs are able to do this is somewhat remarkable: a dog’s nose is very sensitive nose and it requires many hours of training for them to identify and respond to low blood sugar levels.
Jedi’s name is therefore quite apt as it is almost as though he uses the force to assess Luke’s sugar levels.
The force awakens
On March 3, Luke was sleeping with his mum beside him. Neither of them were aware that his blood sugar was beginning to fall dangerously low.
Upon detecting that Luke was low, Jedi initially jumped off the bed, then back on again and laid on top of Dorrie to wake her up.
When Dorrie woke up, she saw that Jedi was bowing his head. This is the sign he has been trained to give to alert that a hypo is happening. In response Dorrie looked at Luke’s CGM which was displaying a figure of 100 mg/dL (5.6 mmol/l) which didn’t explain why Jedi was alerting her.
Putting her trust in Jedi, Dorrie reached for Luke’s testing kit and carried out a blood test. The test gave a result of 57 mg/dL (3.2 mmol/l) showing that Luke was indeed low and needing treatment.
After giving Luke glucose tablets to raise his blood sugar, Dorrie captured the moment on camera, showing Luke resting and Jedi faithfully vigilant by his side.
No lightsaber required for canine life saver
Dorrie and Luke are thankful they had their four-legged friend to rely on. Usually, such a low level should have triggered an alarm on Luke’s CGM. Where technology was unable to respond, nature stepped in.
If it wasn’t for Jedi’s intervention, Luke’s blood sugar could well have dropped further leading to a severe hypo and a medical emergency.
Dorrie spoke for thousands of parents of children with type 1 diabetes in summing up why the condition remains such a challenge for families:
“Most people don’t know that we often see multiple lows and highs every single day no matter how hard we work or how diligent we are. It’s not easy trying to be a pancreas.
“That Luke’s had thousands of shots and finger pricks that started when he was just two and will never stop unless there is a cure. We need awareness about a disease that most of the world doesn’t understand. We need to help show the world why we so desperately need a cure.”