Service Dogs Save Lives By Sensing Dangerously Low Blood Sugar Levels in Diabetics

By Daisy Lin and Bruce Hensel
|  Wednesday, Nov 21, 2012  |  Updated 8:47 PM PDT
View Comments (
)
|
Email
|
Print
Astro is always at Luke Van Ginkel's side, even at football practice. Luke has Type 1 Diabetes and Astro is trained to sense when Luke's blood sugar level is dangerously low. Dr. Bruce Hensel reports for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Nov. 21, 2012

Dr. Bruce Hensel

Astro is always at Luke Van Ginkel's side, even at football practice. Luke has Type 1 Diabetes and Astro is trained to sense when Luke's blood sugar level is dangerously low. Dr. Bruce Hensel reports for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Nov. 21, 2012

advertisement

Sophomore Luke Van Ginkel is the kicker for the top-ranked Upland High School Football team. And on the sidelines at every practice and game, watching his every move, is his lifesaver and service dog Astro.

Astro’s job is to sense when Van Ginkel's blood sugar dips to a dangerous level.

Van Ginkel has Type 1 Diabetes, and his blood sugar can fall without warning, especially when he is asleep. If it gets too low, he could die if he doesn’t address it quickly.

That’s where Astro comes in. He has been trained to alert Van Ginkel and his family when he senses a potentially dangerous drop in Van Ginkel’s blood sugar.

"I was asleep, he started whining a lot, and woke me up, and I told my mom I was feeling low. And she tested me I turned out to be low," Van Ginkel recalled.

Astro was trained at Canine Hope for Diabetics, where the dogs are taught to be obedient and alert. From the time they are puppies, they are taught to recognize the scent of low blood sugar, according to Johanna Reynolds from Canine Hope for Diabetics.

But how they do it still a bit of a mystery.

"It’s still being investigated," Reynolds said. "The thought at this point is that the dog can smell the chemical change in the body that’s a result of fluctuating blood sugars."

Frank Wisneski said his service dog, Major, saved his daughter’s life by alerting them last Christmas that she was about to have a dangerous episode.

"This dog gave us a 45 minute to an hour head start at which point she could have very easily slipped into a coma. By the time we would have realized it on our own, and gotten her the treatment or to the hospital, there wouldn’t be enough time," Wisneski said. "This dog absolutely saved her life that day."

So Van Ginkel keeps Astro at his side, and at his games.

"He’s like my buddy, my best friend. He goes with me everywhere he’s always with me," he said. "He’s gonna be with me through my whole high school football career, hopefully go to college with me, too."

Follow NBCLA for the latest LA news, events and entertainment: iPhone/iPad App | Facebook | Twitter | Google+ | Instagram | RSS | Text Alerts | Email Alerts

Get the latest headlines sent to your inbox!
View Comments (
)
|
Email
|
Print
Leave Comments
What's New
Running Dry
Coverage of the California drought. Read more
Follow Us
Sign up to receive news and updates that matter to you.
Send Us Your Story Tips
Check Out