Debbie Mace, 38, a mother of two, who lives with her husband Andrew, 43, and kids Kia, 6, Nial, 5, gratefully describes how Ally helped a lot to save her children’s lives every single day.
Ally walks, treats, and cuddles just like every other dog — but he’s no ordinary pet.
“Sitting next to my daughter Kia, Ally began making a familiar, gentle grunting noise. I immediately rushed over with the IV machine to give Kia some insulin, rewarding Ally with a piece of ham and a loving pat on the head,” said Debbie.
Ally is no ordinary dog. She is has been trained to sniff the signs if Kia and her brother Nial, who both have a serious genetic condition, are having a life-threatening ‘hypo’. It is a life-threatening situation where their blood-sugar level falls dangerously low.
So, it is no exaggeration to say that Ally is a life-saver. She saves Kia’s and Nial’s lives every single day.
“I met my husband Andrew in 1998 and we got married five years later. In May 2014, after a straightforward pregnancy, Kia was born. But within hours of her birth, she was whisked to the ICU. Her blood sugars were dropping and she kept vomiting milk back up,” Debbie shared.
Although the couple was allowed to take their daughter her home, they had to tube-feed her. The sad thing is that Kia has been admitted to the hospital several times during that entire duration of that first year because she wasn’t growing properly and was being sick a lot.
“We were so worried, but no one could give us the answers we desperately wanted.”Debbie Mace
While we didn’t plan the pregnancy, we were so happy when Nial was born in August 2015. But then he began showing many of the same symptoms as Kia had, which was terrifying,” Debbie said.
In October 2016, Kia was finally diagnosed with mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome (MDDS) – a life-limiting condition that causes progressive muscle weakness and brain damage.
“Andy and I were devastated. MDDS is genetic, but there was no history of it in either of our families. Unfortunately, in September 2018, Nial was also diagnosed with the same condition. It was a just huge blow,” shared Debbie.
Aside from being artificially fed, because their bodies can’t digest food, Kia and Nial also have non-diabetic hypoglycemia, a potentially fatal condition that causes the glucose in their blood to drop.
“It’s one of the biggest threats to their lives because it can be very hard to detect. If their blood sugar drops too low, they could be into a coma, suffer seizures and brain damage or even die,” Debbie shared sadly.
So to check if their blood sugar levels are getting low, the couple had to prick their heels with a needle every 20 minutes to test their blood and check if they needed IV glucose.
“This was very painful for them, and distressing for us,” said Debbie.
The couple was already crippled with anxiety and exhausted from working day and night to monitor their kid’s blood sugar levels, while also working at the same time. It also took a toll on their relationship as a couple.
Fortunately, their doctor informed them about a charity called Medical Detection Dogs. The charity provides dogs who detect changes in blood sugar levels so the couple doesn’t need to do prick tests all the time to the two kids.
Unfortunately, the charity receives hundreds of applications each year for its dogs, which cost £35,000 each to train. But the couple just hoped that a miracle will happen and that they will have a dog that will take care of their kids.
“However, after a series of interviews, I was stunned to be told we’d been successful, and in February 2019 we met Ally – and all instantly fell in love.“Debbie Mace
Ally began her training in June 2019. She was given samples of Kia and Nial’s sweat and she learned to detect when they are having their ‘hypo’ episodes and the couple with a grunt.
“She came to live with us two months later, and she’s been life-changing. Andy and I feel more relaxed, which has helped our mental wellbeing, and we can enjoy being parents as Ally has alleviated our anxiety,” expressed Debbie happily.