APEX: Apex girl with a rare disorder has a guardian angel - Alabamas13.com WVTM-TV Birmingham, AL

Apex girl with a rare disorder has a guardian angel

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DURHAM, N.C. -

Kaelyn Krawczyk, fondly known as "KK", is a 7-year-old Apex girl who has suffered from a rare disorder all her life.

At any moment, she's susceptible to mild to severe reactions.

At Duke Hospital, she had a cystoscopy. Doctors injected a chemical into her ureters, hoping to prevent future infections.

KK's rare condition is known as a mast cell activation disorder.

"She was diagnosed when she was two months old" said her mother, Michelle Krawczyk.

It makes KK vulnerable to anything from mild to violent episodes at any time of day. Her severe symptoms include a sudden drop in her blood pressure, abdominal pain and vomiting, as well as trouble breathing.

That's where a service dog named JJ comes in. She alerts KK's mom and dad anytime KK starts having a reaction.

Michelle Krawczyk said at first, she was looking for service dogs that were simply loyal companions for her daughter.

"We started to call all the organizations on Google and we got the same response. ‘We don't train a dog for that condition' or ‘we don't train a dog for a child that young,'" Michelle Krawczyk said.

She did get a call back from Deb Cunningham, program director of a nonprofit out of Chapel Hill called Eyes, Ears, Nose and Paws.

Cunningham asked the Krawczyk family to take swabs of KK's mouth anytime she had an episode.

This process is similar to the model that they would use to train diabetic-alert dogs. JJ started to differentiate the smell, alert the parents of an episode, and even grab a lifesaving kit at their home if necessary.

Krawczyk said at first, she was skeptical.

"A dog smell a reaction? That's crazy!"

Crazy, but true. JJ can smell the chemical changes in KK's body as it's happening, sometimes faster than any medical monitor can.

That's why for the surgery, doctors wanted JJ to be in the operating room. Towards the end of the surgery, JJ noticed KK was having a mild reaction, and notified the doctors.

Brad Taicher, assistant professor pediatric anesthesia at Duke University said, "It struck us that JJ is really just an additional monitor that provides information about what's going on with KK."

To his knowledge, it is the first time a dog was ever inside a Duke operating room, let alone assisting in the surgery.

For the Krawczyk family, getting JJ 18 months ago changed their life. They said she's the reason why both parents can sleep at night and why KK can have a more normal life.

To learn more about KK and JJ, visit their Facebook page.

Eileen Park

Eileen joined WNCN after years of working as a foreign correspondent. During her time off, she enjoys relaxing with her dogs, reading, and exploring the Triangle. More>>

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