Kaelyn Krawczyk: 7-Year-Old Having Kidney Surgery Accompanied by Dog

Thursday, 19 Dec 2013 11:10 AM

By Michael Mullins

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Kaelyn Krawczyk, a 7-year-old girl undergoing kidney surgery, was accompanied by her beloved dog JJ during the procedure due to the canine's ability to detect when the young girl is about to have a life-threatening reaction.

The physician's decision to allow Kaelyn's dog to remain by her side throughout the procedure was the first time such an allowance has been made at the Children's Health Center at Duke University Medical Center, NBC News reported.

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"It struck us that JJ is really just an additional monitor that provides information about what’s going on with KK," Dr. Brad Taicher, assistant professor of pediatric anesthesia at Duke, told NBC affiliate WNCN in Raleigh, N.C.

"We’re very excited for the fact that JJ can join us for this," Taicher added. "We’re excited to see what she can do and what information she can provide us."

Kaelyn suffers from a rare condition known as mast cell activation disorder, in which she can experience severe fatigue, skin lesions, vomiting and other reactions when the weather gets too hot or too cold or she feels stressed.

In extreme, life-threatening cases, the 7-year-old's blood pressure drops, giving way to severe abdominal pain and difficulty breathing, Kaelyn's mother Michelle old Today.com.

"Everyday things that every 7-year-old wants to do, like run around and play or to go to the park or anything like that, I mean any of those can be a potential trigger," Krawczyk said.

Realizing that dogs could be trained to preemptively detect seizures in people with diabetes, Krawczyk and her husband set out to find a dog that could act as an early warning system for their daughter.

After initially being turned down by several individuals who specialized in training such assistance dogs, the Krawczyks eventually connected with Deb Cunningham, program director of the Chapel Hill, N.C. nonprofit Eyes, Ears, Nose and Paws, who introduced them to a 2-year-old rescued dog named JJ.

When Kaelyn is about to experience a reaction, JJ will begin barking, jumping and tugging on the clothes of whoever is present, according to the girl's mother, who describes the pair as inseparable.

"She is the reason why we can sleep at night, she is the reason why [Kaelyn] can have a more normal life, and that might not seem like a lot, but when you have to restrict your child from normal every day activities, the ability to do anything more is just phenomenal,” Krawczyk told NBC News.

According to scientists, JJ and similarly trained dogs are able to predict such reactions by observing subtle behavior changes generally missed by people.

The 7-year-old Kaelyn described her dog as "very beautiful and smart," adding "she’s the top of my love list."

And as for the kidney surgery procedure on Wednesday, it was a success, according to her physicians at the hospital, NBC News reported.

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