Diabetic Teacher Fights to Have Life-Saving Pooch in the Classroom
Nov 08, 2011
Despite her name, Jinx brings anything but bad luck. The female boxer, a trained Diabetic Alert Dog (DAD), is responsible for responding to her owner's hypoglycemic, or low blood sugar, episodes. The problem? Jinx's owner, a schoolteacher, wants to have Jinx with her in the classroom. And so far, her requests have been repeatedly denied.
A Lifetime of Highs and Lows
Christina McCurdy, a 6th- and 7th-grade science teacher at Bettye Mae Jack Middle School in Morton, Mississippi, has type 1 diabetes.
Type 1 diabetics are 100% insulin-dependent and must check their blood sugar several times throughout the day and monitor their intake of carbohydrates to avoid instances of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Diabetics check their blood sugar by pricking their finger and placing a drop of blood on a test strip, which is placed in a blood glucose meter.
Low blood sugars are normally marked by physical signs such as shaking or sweating. About 17% of type 1 diabetics, including McCurdy, eventually lose the ability to sense a hypoglycemic event. 'I have a hard time feeling my blood sugar dropping,' McCurdy told USA Today.
A Diabetic's Best Friend
Detecting sugar lows is where Jinx comes in.
DADs are trained to sense an odor or behavioral change in a diabetic suffering from hypoglycemia and to alert that diabetic so that he or she can take the proper actions to avoid a possible seizure or loss of consciousness. Severe sugar lows can lead to coma and death.
The use of dogs to warn diabetics of hypoglycemia is a relatively new science, and one that some say is largely unproven. Still, McCurdy says Jinx is right 100% of the time (in March 2008, the American Diabetes Association reported that DADs have an accuracy rate of 90%).
No Dogs Allowed
Basically, McCurdy trusts Jinx with her life. This is precisely why she has asked permission to have the dog with her while she's teaching in the classroom.
But it's not that easy. Scott County school officials have been reluctant to give McCurdy the permission she has asked for. And so far they've been mum as to why her requests have been denied.
What they have done is suggest alternatives, none of which are feasible to McCurdy. One is to have her test her blood sugar every hour, but that would require several test strips per day at a cost of one dollar each. And having a snack or juice as she teaches? McCurdy feels that would be disruptive to the students.
Every Dog Has Its Day
McCurdy is not giving up in her pursuit to have Jinx accompany her to school. She has taken her case to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a government agency that enforces workplace discrimination laws.
As of now, the school district is again reviewing McCurdy's request. The 29-year-old teacher has some support, including that of the Diabetes Foundation of Mississippi. She may also have the law on her side: the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 allows for those with a disability to have a service dog in their place of employment.
'Jinx is a service dog, the same as a seeing-eye dog,' McCurdy told USA Today. 'She does what my body can't do anymore.'
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