Damage Control -
By Gretchen Boger-O’Bryan
It was about a year into diagnosis, Maeve says, that she first heard the term “diabetic alert dog” and, she admits, then it was all she could think of.
The avid dog-lover says her pup Spud (also 16, like her) is the first she greets each morning and finds upon arriving home each day. Maeve was thrilled to learn that service dogs trained using their person’s scent when blood sugar is high or low can then sense sudden level changes and alert their human to take action -- often well before the Dexcom alarms based off blood and interstitial fluid readings.
In addition to help with what Maeve calls, “my biggest chore that’s done over and over but is never,
ever finished,” the idea of having a dog always by her side brings a kind of comfort she hadn’t realized she needed. “Some days it’s really hard, and the weight of the cloud sort of follows you, even during good times. It’s always there. Having an alert dog would help keep me safe while also reminding me I’m never actually alone. That would definitely be some sun breaking through the cloud,” she explains.
After some research, Maeve learned costs for a diabetic alert dog reach well into the mid-$20,000s and that, her parents explained, was a game-changer. With regular insulin purchases and related medical bills, that kind of investment isn’t in the cards. They reminded her that insulin is required to save her life every day and while an alert dog would be helpful, without insulin, there’d be no Maeve to support.
Indeed, not even Uncle Pennybags’ pastel-papered banker’s till -- the Monopoly man in Maeve’s favorite game -- could help on this one. After her parents shut down Maeve’s Go Fund Me idea, they
counteroffered: if she tries to earn it, they’ll help her do it.
That’s where GlucaGirl comes in, the alter-ego she and her parents landed on because of its superhero feel and reference to glucose, a theme now such a huge part of life. After tossing ideas around, Maeve landed on an art project she wanted to try. She and her mom bought supplies, tried several techniques and, when the pieces were dry and ready for the next step in creation process, they loved what they’d
created. And that’s how GlucaGirl, a T1D on a quest for a service dog one inked tile at a time, was launched.
Maeve creates brightly colored designs with alcohol ink on ceramic tiles and, once dry, spray-seals each to set the ink. Then, with her parents’ help, the trio pours a multi-part resin on top and uses a heat torch to pop bubbles before the tiles must cure for several days. The resulting glass-like finish resists moisture and heat. Says Maeve, “Those two qualities mean these are perfect as drink coasters as well as art. I attach cork to the bottom of each to protect furniture, stamp them with my logo, and paint the edges to finish it off.”
Maeve began inking on her own, stockpiling designs until the family could set up outside for a huge spray session. The next stage of resin takes a lot of time, says Maeve, “there’s just so much attention to each little detail that it gets intense.” Then she laughs, “I take a lot of breaks.”
All proceeds from the $15 tiles go right into her service dog account. Thanks to a local Facebook group that spurred a flurry of orders, two community supporters and a porch pop-up at home just before Covid-19, Maeve is halfway to the $25,000 goal. The pandemic slowed things a bit, as supply costs increased and some, like rubbing alcohol, became impossible to locate. Still, while in quarantine, she’s held some virtual pop-ups on her Facebook page (@GlucaGirl) and basic website, glucagirl.com.
While inking after virtual school was one activity during quarantine, the entire experience meant no
longer playing on her high school’s soccer team or enjoying other sports – gym class, she notes, is her
favorite subject! – her level of physical activity became nill. She missed running up and down the soccer field -- a sport she’d played since first grade that included recreation teams, travel team and a club team with year-round play -- and taking part in other activities that kept her on the move.
Now, though, Maeve’s coming up for air and finding ways to take control there, too, despite
circumstances -- a worldwide pandemic will certainly do – that make it difficult. After her mom won an eight-week personal-training session mid-summer, Maeve now joins her in the local studio three days a week, as the pair learns the ins and outs of kettle bells, dumbbells, lunges, planks, wall-slides, wall-sits, plank jacks, and the most recent discovery, the Bosu ball squat. Local to her New Jersey home, its clever name, Out Run Your Fork (ORYF), is just as fun on the inside, too. Says Maeve, “It’s such a friendly place to go, everyone is supportive, full of energy and always teaching me something new. It’s hard not to smile there.” Then she jokes, “And it’s even easier to smile after I’ve finished the workout!”
Maeve and ORYF co-owner Melissa are working together on a nutrition plan that keeps Maeve’s T1D
needs in check, her finicky teen-palate content and jumpstarts her metabolism, all while building
strength and endurance. “I know it’s going to be a lot of work, but Melissa promises me I will feel so
much better in general and, of course, the help with my blood sugars will be huge," says Maeve.
With this new focus on movement as the world has slowed, Maeve and her family have even dragged out the long-forgotten basement treadmill, tacked some posters with stretches, weight-training exercises, yoga, and body-weight exercises to the wall of a spare room turned workout space. Located just down the hall from their bedrooms, the room beckons, reminding Maeve and her family to keep it moving and keep taking control, despite all the ways life these days can feel so out of our control.
Stay tuned for next week’s final installment of Maeve’s DiaStory, “Calling the Shots.” Gretchen Boger-O’Bryan is a writer, editor, nonprofit toiler by day and, most important, parent to a T1D, no matter the hour.
ALL DONATIONS NOW THROUGH SEPTEMBER 10TH WILL GO DIRECTLY TO GLUCAGIRL'S DIABETIC ALERT DOG FUND - DONATE AT: https://www.diastrongfoundation.com/donate