Denise Sgandurra watched her twin boys Aidan and Lukas, both 23 months old, play with toy cars on her living room floor one recent afternoon. Aidan, who is the oldest, requires constant monitoring.
"He has Type 1 Juvenile Diabetes," said Sgandurra, a special education teacher at Masuk High School.
When Aidan's blood sugar levels drop he can have a seizure, go unconscious or slip into a coma, while high levels can damage his organs, according to Sgandurra, who grew up in Fairfield.
"He can be lethargic and spacey," she said of some of the tell-tale signs of low blood sugar. "Once it was dropping so fast that his teeth were chattering and his body was trembling."
Sgandurra and her husband Jim test Aiden 10 times a day, once every three hours and twice after snacks, pricking his finger. "Then he gets insulin which brings his sugar level down," Sgandurra said.
The Sgandurras want to buy a Diabetic Alert Dog, which is trained to alert the diabetic or a loved one to blood sugar fluctuations, preventing the dangerous consequences of extreme highs and lows. Diabetic Alert Dogs are 100 percent accurate and often alert as much as 20-45 minutes before a meter shows there's even a problem.
"It's important to have a dog, because he's so young it's hard to tell," Sgandurra said of how her son is feeling.
But one of these dogs costs $21,000.
On Saturday, June 9, the Sgandurra family will host a fundraising expo at , 131 Beach Road in Fairfield, from noon to 5 p.m. with multiple vendors and raffles. Admission will be $5.
"We're doing a huge fundraiser on June 9," Sgandurra said.
Vendors include Thirty One, Pampered Chef, Tastefully Simple, Tupperware, Arbonne, Creative Memories and Stampin Up.
"There will be face painting and raffles," Sgandurra said. "Each vendor is donating a gift toward a raffle and I'm waiting for Timex to donate a watch."
Dichello Distributors will donate two golf bags, the Plaza Diner in Shelton a gift certificate and a caterer will donate lunch boxes to sell, according to Sgandurra.
"We are trying to raise awareness for Juvenile Diabetes as well as Guardian Angel Service dogs, also known as DAD animals (Diabetic Alert Dogs)," Sgandurra said.
An Early Diagnosis
Aidan was on an antibiotic for a respiratory infection this spring when he started having complications.
"We thought he was having an allergic reaction to the antibiotic," Sgandurra said. "He was crying, urinating through everything. He was standing by the refrigerator saying, 'Ice.' He was constantly touching his tongue. The way his tongue was so sticky, you'd think we gave him caramel."
Jim and Denise Sgandurra took their son to Yale-New Haven Hospital on April 1 and he was admitted for five days. He was soon diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. It is an autoimmune disease, so Denise said their son will have it for life.
With the proper treatment, she said, "He could have a complete, typical life."
Aidan was diagnosed young. Denise said children with Type 1 Diabetes are usually diagnosed by age seven.
Guardian Angel Service Dogs
Lynne McPadden, Denise' aunt, saw an article on Diabetic Alert Dogs in the Connecticut Post and brought the article to the hospital.
Guardian Angel Service Dogs is a charity that is associated with Warren Retrievers, a nationally regarded breeder of Labrador Retrievers in Orange, Va. Warren Retrievers trains service dogs to help those with "invisible disabilities" such as diabetes, post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.
Guardian Angel Service Dogs is helping the Sgandurras to raise the money needed to buy a Diabetic Alert Dog.
All donations are tax deductible. Direct donations to the organization can be made with the note "For the benefit of the Sgandurra Family." Once the Sgandurra's reach their goal, funds will benefit another family in need.
There are two ways to donate:
- Go to GuardianAngelServiceDogs.org. Click on the donate button. Once a donation has been submitted you will receive an email asking which family your donation should benefit.
- Checks can be made out to Guardian Angel Service Dogs with the note "For the benefit of the Sgandurra Family" and sent to: Guardian Angel Service Dogs, Attn: Dan Warren, P.O. Box 910 Orange, VA 22960.