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Jack Sisson's TBI Blog
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Saturday, April 28, 2012
Service Dog Helps After Traumatic Brain Injury
This is such an inspirational story, as are most that deal with service dogs. The loyalty and assistance provided by these incredible animals is moving and remind us that humankind is not the only species that can demonstrate love, dedication, and even nobility. I'm so happy that Matthew and Shadow found each other.
From lenconnect.com, the web site of The Daily Telegram:
(Adrian, MI) Matthew Varnum’s life, and that of his entire family, changed on Feb. 12, 2006, when he was driving home on Beecher Road after dropping his brother-in-law off near Hillsdale and, in veering over to the side of the road to avoid an oncoming car swerving into his lane, ended up going off an embankment and into Bean Creek.
He was knocked unconscious for some 81⁄2 hours, during which time searchers missed finding his car because it was in the creek. When he awoke, Varnum, who at the time was Berean Baptist Church’s youth pastor, was able to dial 911, and soon found himself in a helicopter on the way to Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center in Toledo.
Although at first he appeared to have simply a mild concussion, it soon became clear to him, his wife, Jenny, and their three children, Stella, Matthew Jr. and Noella, that something far more serious was going on.
Routine tasks took much longer to perform. He couldn’t focus and had symptoms including intense migraines, dizziness and nausea. He also began having what are called “syncope episodes,” in which he blacks out and falls to the ground, and periods of confusion that cause him to wander off and get lost.
Two and a half years and countless physicians, hospitals, clinics and treatment centers later, he was finally diagnosed by a doctor in Ypsilanti with a TBI, or traumatic brain injury. Varnum got a service dog shortly thereafter that didn’t work out, but he and his wife saw the benefits of a dog and decided to try again with a puppy they could train and bond with. Enter Shadow, Varnum’s now 16-month-old service dog.
The Daily Telegram interviewed Varnum by email about his experience with Shadow. An edited version follows.
A. Shadow is a Shiloh shepherd. They are bigger, stronger-boned, more intelligent and more mild-mannered than the typical shepherd. We got him when he was 9 weeks old, and from that time to this, we have become best of friends.
Q. What does Shadow do for you?
A. Besides the proven benefits of a dog’s calming companionship, Shadow has a couple of main jobs. First, when I pass out, he stays with me and attempts to wake me up by licking my face or nudging me.
We hope to train him to alert others by barking when he sees me go down, so that if I am in a different room, others will know immediately that I need help. Secondly, if I do start to get confused and wander, he would be able to help keep me home or take me home. Also, he would be a great deterrent to someone trying to harm me when I’m wandering, since during these fugue episodes, I don’t know where I am or what is going on.
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