Teenage years can be challenging for most of us. For many, those years are filled with a sense of freedom and marked by the rewards of first experiences plus increased independence. For Julia, early teenage years have been the most difficult years of her life, due to epilepsy. Julia was diagnosed with epilepsy at age 4 but was able to control the seizures with one medication. She enjoyed a healthy and active childhood, competing in ski races, practicing taekwondo and playing soccer and basketball. She was always on the go with her friends and family until life dramatically changed and she began having uncontrolled seizures in middle school.
Despite multiple medications and undergoing invasive medical tests and surgeries, her epilepsy continued to progress and her symptoms increased. She was having several seizures per day, with no advanced warning. She was assigned an aid at school, which isolated her from friends and she could never be alone, even at home. She was extremely restricted to activity due to risk of incurring injuries with seizures. Julia became increasingly isolated and her quality of life significantly decreased.
Thankfully, Julia’s pediatric epilepsy specialist recommended a service dog, which brought her to Canine Partners for Life. Julia received Bellevue in 2022, the summer before her senior year of High School. It is a huge responsibility to take on a service dog as a teenager, but Julia was passionate about making it work. With the support of her family, nurses, aids, teachers and the training team at CPL they have developed a beautiful bond. Bellevue will typically alert Julia 15–20 minutes before a seizure occurs. Once she alerts, Julia will sit down and cuddle with Bellevue, which has often seemed to help calm her and in turn, avoid seizure activity all together. When Julia does have a seizure, Bellevue will lay with her and lick her face or hand, attempting to stimulate her throughout the seizure.
Before Bellevue, Julia was medically fragile and often stayed in bed all day to be safe. Over the last year, she went to overnight camp, enjoyed a concert and took multiple trips by plane with her family. She also attended school in person, went to senior prom and graduated High School! Julia went from falling daily or weekly to only falling 3 times in the last year. Bellevue has given Julia the motivation and safety she needs to be active. She has helped Julia find new purpose in life and has given her the courage to take new risks. Julia socializes more now and is planning to attend an animal training course at her local trade school this coming Fall. Her family shared, “It was really difficult to imagine an independent future for Julia before Bellevue came to the rescue and now it’s hard to imagine life without her.”