On Aug. 23, 2010, while opening presents on his 4th birthday, Oliver Kurlinski suddenly collapsed and was rushed by ambulance to the hospital. After a week in the hospital and many tests, Oliver was diagnosed with epilepsy, a brain disorder that causes recurring seizures and affects approximately three million people in the United States.
The family recently received news that they would be getting help from an unexpected source: a dog. Nonprofit 4 Paws for Ability recently selected Oliver to receive a seizure assistance dog, which will dramatically improve Oliver’s life by restoring his independence.
Some of Oliver’s seizures can be so subtle that even a trained observer has difficulty recognizing them. During a seizure, Oliver loses consciousness and is unable to move or speak but may only appear to be daydreaming. Activities such as climbing, going down a slide, bathing, swimming or even eating can become dangerous as a seizure can cause him to fall, choke or become immobilized in water.
Oliver’s dog will be specially trained to assist during and following a seizure. Among the dog’s duties during a seizure will be to alert Oliver’s parents, roll Oliver onto his side so he does not choke and block Oliver from walking into dangerous situations like traffic.
“Ever since Oliver started having seizures, he is afraid to be alone,” says Heather Kurlinski, Oliver’s mother. “A seizure assistance dog will make an enormous difference in Oliver’s life by giving him the love and friendship of a companion dog but also the safety and security of a caregiver. With the dog to let us know when he’s having a seizure, Oliver will be able to play in another room from us or sleep in his own bed at night.”
As a pediatrician and mother, Angela Black knows firsthand how a seizure assistance dog can improve a child’s life. Her 7-year-old daughter Sarah, who has Dravet syndrome, a severe form of epilepsy, received seizure assistance dog Alfie from 4 Paws for Ability in June 2010.
“Our greatest fear was that Sarah might die from a prolonged seizure or SUDEP, sudden unexplained death in epilepsy, while she was alone,” Black says. “Alfie provides Sarah with some independence and security while giving me peace of mind. Now that we have Alfie to alert us to her seizures, Sarah can play in another room while I cook dinner, and she can sleep in her own bed.”
4 Paws for Ability spends $22,000 to procure and train an assistance dog. Each recipient family raises $13,000 toward the cost.
If you’d like to learn more about Oliver or make a tax-deductible donation toward his dog, click here.