Since that dark day in 2005 Chris has had more ambulance call-outs, high dependency stays and A&E visits than he can remember – all with dangerously high or low blood sugar levels. As if the diabetes itself was not enough, it has resulted in numerous other serious health complications such as heart disease, retinopathy, dual incontinence and a disease that kills the nervous system in his back, bladder, bowels, feet and knees. Chris is just one in a handful of patients whose diabetes the NHS cannot get under control, despite an insulin pump, glucose monitoring and various courses. In desperation he enquired about a full pancreas transplant but he was rejected because of the severity of his diabetes and the very real risk that he would not come round from an anaesthetic.
Deprived of any independence and unable even to play with his young son, Chris felt he was existing rather than living. The future looked shockingly black.
Just before Christmas 2014, came the magical moment when Chris met Jade. In that poignant moment, both man and dog seemed to know that their lives had changed forever, for the better.
All owners like to think that they experience a unique bond with their dog but the deep partnership between Jade and Chris is truly awe-inspiring. She is utterly devoted to Chris, as he is to her, and one cannot help feeling that this lovely dog understands how valuable her work is. Not many dogs regularly save their owner’s life hundreds of times. “Her attachment to me is phenomenal, she is always by my side. She sleeps beside my bed and even when she is out running free on a walk she prefers to keep by my side.” Jade is trained to alert Chris when his blood sugar level drops below 5 and she does this by placing a paw on him if he is sitting down and jumping up at him if he is standing up. In a three-month period Jade alerted Chris 456 times and his wife only had to use three hypo kits (as opposed to more than 12 a week before Jade arrived) when, despite Jade’s alert, his sugar dropped so fast he couldn’t treat himself quickly enough.
The difference Jade has made to Chris is monumental. She has not just saved his life but she has helped him regain his confidence and independence and lead a life like any other 32-year-old husband and father. From a bleak, dependent existence when he could never go out on his own or be left alone he is starting to enjoy the simple pleasures that most of us take for granted – like going to the shops or having friends round while his wife goes out.
For the first time in 10 years Chris is optimistically looking to the future. “At the moment I am taking things slowly but steadily as my confidence grows. I still struggle on bad days but most days I try to cram in as much as possible with my wife and son with trips to the beach and museums. I’d like to get back to work – perhaps something in IT where an employer will accept a dog.”