Kaelyn “KK” Krawczyk and her service dog “JJ” from Chapel Hill nonprofit are so close that the latter accompanied the 7-year-old girl as life-saving companion when she went in for surgery at Duke University Medical Center on Wednesday, according to reports.
KK is a North Carolina native who suffers from a rare medical condition called mast cell activation disorder. Also called mastocytosis, this disorder causes KK body’s to have allergic reactions to heat and cold.
For patients with mast cell activation disorder, certain allergy triggers cause the body to release lots of inflammatory compounds that consequently lead to mild to serious or life-threatening allergic reactions, including an abdominal pain and vomiting, significant drop in blood pressure, and trouble breathing.
“A normal patient with anaphylaxis knows what their triggers are,” Dr. Brad M. Taicher, an anesthesiologist at the medical facility who has worked with KK and JJ, told CBS News. “For KK, any countless number of things can trigger her mast cells to degranulate and release these mediators.”
But KK has her trusty dog, JJ, who is always around to prevent her from situation that could cause an allergic reaction.
JJ was a shelter dog until he started his service dog career as a canine that could detect blood sugar levels in patients with diabetes. KK first got JJ 18 months ago when KK’s mother, Michelle Krawczyk, approached JJ’s trainer Deb Cunningham, and asked if the animal could be trained to sniff out KK’s dangerous allergy risks.
JJ was then trained to detect the ailing girl’s reactions ahead of time. In a situation that could cause an allergic reaction, JJ starts turning in circles, alerting KK in advance that she is going to be sick.
The service dog is so finely trained that the doctors allowed the animal into the operation room to monitor KK’s condition.
“It sounds silly, in this age of technology, when we have millions of dollars-worth of equipment beeping around me, that we had a little dog who was more sensitive than all the machines,” Dr. Taicher told Cary News.
Although Taicher is amazed to see the dog’s ability to sniff out this particular medical condition, he is not shocked that this domestic animal has the ability to detect danger before their human companions can.
“I don’t think that is terribly surprisingly that both dogs and humans are far more complicated that we sometimes pretend,” Taicher said. “We don’t understand the interactions that are work, but we can always appreciate when we see them.”