Meet Echo – a golden retriever who has been hailed as a lifesaver – twice.
Endy Smith from east Belfast, who lives with diabetes, caught Covid-19 last October and is still suffering from its effects, with a loss of taste and smell.
She said, “With type 1 diabetes, I was very concerned about contracting Covid-19 because I knew diabetes made me more prone to getting sick than someone else with no underlying health condition. My lips eventually turned blue and I ended up at Ulster Hospital, where I was given oxygen. It was a worrying time. ”
Wendy uses an insulin pump to treat her diabetes, and during her recovery she noticed a nasty infection that settled where her pump connected to her body.
“In November, I got an infection at my insulin pump site. It got very red and hot. After four days of antibiotics, the area where I had moved my insulin pump also swelled.
“My whole upper arm went red. I ended up in the emergency room, 10 days on IV antibiotics and then three more weeks on oral antibiotics.
“I think because Covid hammered my immune system, it took me much longer to get over such an infection. I don’t think it would have had that much impact in normal times.”
The mother of two’s recovery from the virus, along with the effects of the lockdown, also took a mental toll.
“I got a lot of support from my family, but it wasn’t until I was talking to other people with diabetes and someone else who also had Covid that I realized I was mentally exhausted,” she said.
The Coleraine native says it was the unconditional love of her “working dog” Echo (5) and an online peer support group run by the Diabetes UK NI charity that helped her through the dark days.
Echo is Wendy’s “four-legged everyday savior”, since the officer has not been able to determine when her blood sugar level is dangerously high or low since an operation some time ago.
Most people with type 1 diabetes are aware when they have hypo so they can take steps to bring their blood sugar levels back to healthy levels.
“I started losing hypo after surgery, but after taking hypo while driving my car about five years ago, I knew I needed a working dog from the Hypo Hounds Charity to treat my diabetes .
“I had up to 15 Hypos a week, some of them at night. I have no doubt that Echo has saved my life countless times.
“She’s trained to alert me when my blood sugar is too low or too high. She’s trained to put her paw on my knee and bark to alert me or when I’m in bed and Colin ( Wendy’s husband) is down, she will. ” tease him so he can check on me. ”
She added, “Echo takes the burden off the rest of the family as they trust her to look after me and she’s always great company. But I valued her even more when I was recovering from Covid.”
Wendy added, “I get comments about how my diabetes will go away if I just go on a diet, which of course it doesn’t. So many people don’t understand so it’s great to be with people who empathize can handle your situation and go through the same problems. “
And Echo’s remarkable lifesaving skills don’t end with Wendy. She recently saved her canine colleague Max when she donated blood to the seriously ill terrier who was suspected of being accidentally poisoned.
“Echo gave Max a blood donation and she is recovering well. Echo is really an exceptional dog, I am happy to have her.”
To register for the Type 1 or Type 2 peer support groups, send an email to email@example.com