Kaelyn "KK" Krawczyk suffers from mast cell activation disorder. Because of her rare condition, KK is susceptible to suffering episodes that can include a severe drop in blood pressure and trouble breathing. Even the anesthetic used for procedures to help the child can trigger an attack.
The Apex family wanted to get a service dog that would alert them if KK was having a medical emergency. They got a dog named "JJ" from a Chapel Hill nonprofit called Eyes, Ears, Nose, and Paws. The organization trained JJ to detect the scent KK gives off shortly before one of her episodes.
"JJ is very sensitive and can tell us that KK is having a reaction or starting to have a reaction before we see any clinical symptoms. She's alerted before monitors have been able to catch her reactions," mom Michelle Krawczyk said.
The Krawczyk family said they were very skeptical, but now believe JJ is KK's guardian angel.
"We can sleep, which we didn't do well before because we always worried she'd have a reaction she didn't wake up from," Krawczyk said.
JJ has also made a believer out of KK's physicians. The dog was invited into the operating room at Duke Hospital on Wednesday when KK underwent surgery. Doctors say having JJ there was crucial in monitoring the little girl's condition.
"If I didn't believe in it I guess I wouldn't have asked that JJ come with us today and provide that extra warning. We don't want to wait till KK has a problem to treat it - we want all the warning we can have," Duke Anesthesiologist Dr. Brad Taicher said.
This is the first time Duke has allowed an animal in an operating room. Doctors said KK's surgery was relatively minor and the risk of infection from having the dog in the room was relatively low. They said they would do it again under the right circumstances on a case by case basis.