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Service Dog Helps With Heart Condition; Contributions Needed For Stem Cell Transplant

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Debby Stricker

The Okawville Times

Diane Averbeck’s service dog Jodi is more than a friend and companion. The Brittany Spaniel is the life-line of the 55 year old New Minden woman with cardiomyopathy.

The specially trained dog knows when Averbeck’s heart rate is life-threatening dangerously low. She listens to her heart beat and smells a change body enzymes.

Jodi blocks her from standing up when she would fall because of low heart rate. When Averbeck is driving she pokes her in the side so she can pull over and wait for her heart rate to rise. If her heart rate falls dangerously low when she is sleeping the dog barks and licks her face to wake her up. Jodi reminds Averbeck to take her medicine by leading her to the place it is kept.

Averbeck’s husband, Mark, built a dog bed level with Diane so Jodi can sleep near the life she protects.

Jodi and Averbeck are still training for alerting assistance outside the house. The goal is for the dog to go to Diane’s husband where he works on the Brinkman hog farm .2 miles away, so he would come back to the house.

Jodi is also being trained to use the telephone to call for help if Averbeck passes out. One button on the floor calls her husband. If he doesn’t come quick enough, the dog will press the other button to call 911. She is also being trained on a special bracelet for Averbeck to push to send a text to her husband.

Getting Jodi

Averbeck and Jodi had extensive training together through “Willing Partners Canine Education” in Marion. The 360 hours was divided between obedience, familiarization in public places and tasks. For Jodi, the tasks were health alerts to save Averbeck’s life.

By Averbeck and Jodi training together, Averbeck was able to get her for a fraction of the typical $25,000 to $40,000 for a service dog.

They went to numerous public places so the dog would be comfortable in all places. Jodi was even brought to a motorcyclists gathering to train it not to be spooked from the revving engines.

Jodi has accompanied Averbeck everywhere in their 1 1/2 years together. She goes with her to mass at St. Ann’s in Nashville. If Averbeck drops a credit card on a tile floor in a store, Jodi picks it up. That is important because if Averbeck would bend over to pick it up she would get dizzy and could pass out.

Medical History

Averbeck was leading a normal life when at age 50 a bout with the flu changed everything. The flu turned into a virus that damaged one side of her heart.

The flu lingered for about a month before Averbeck reovered. The only symptom was she had nagging fatigue. “It was nothing that put any red flags,” Averbeck said.

She wasn’t too concerned, and didn’t go to the doctor.

It was her routine test for her Crohns’s disease that led to the diagnosis of cardiomyopathy five years ago, when Averbeck was 50.

Averbeck’s heart condition is so serious that she was put on heart transplant list. Now she is on the verge of being taken off the list due to the guidelines regarding age and her underlying condition of Crohn’s disease.

Averbeck is now waiting for a stem cell transplant to regenerate heart cells and extend her life 10-15 years. Stem cells will be taken from her own body, so she does not have to wait for a donor match.

Financial Stress

Stem cell transplants cost $8,000 each, and they are not covered by insurance. Averbeck was told that she will likely need two.

The Averbecks do not have available funds because of the changes in their financial situation due to her illness.

Diane can no longer work at her occupation as network administrator. She formerly worked at Zander Sporting Goods in Baldwin and for the Illinois Federation Of Teachers.

When she quit work she not only lost her paycheck but also her health insurance. For 18 months the Averbecks had to pay the $1,000 a month Cobra insurance until she got on Social Security.

It took six months for Averbeck to be approved for disability benefits. The disability benefit she collects is only about 20 percent of her former salary.

Help Needed

A fund has been set up at Farmers and theMerchants Bank in Hoyleton for Averbeck’s stem cell transplant. Contributions can also be sent to the internet site gofundmecom/dianeaverbeck.

Averbeck said that they now have $3,000 available.

Getting the stem cell transplant as soon as possible is crucial to Averbeck’s survival. With each passing day she becomes weaker. Hope dims.

This Story Published In The Nashville News Courtesy Of The Okawville Times

Service Dog Helps With Heart Condition;

Contributions Needed For Stem Cell Transplant

Mark and Diane Averbeck with her service dog, Jodi.

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