Life has not been easy for 19-year-old Savannah Martin from Social Circle since being diagnosed with a rare genetic neurological disorder at the age of 15.
“It was something that I had never imagined. The diagnosis of Hypokalemic Periodic Paralysis turned my entire life upside down,” Martin said, going on to recount the day in August 2012 when everything in her life changed.
“It was Aug. 4. I woke up that morning and was going to start my day like every other; unfortunately, things didn’t go as planned,” she said. “I passed out and was paralyzed from head to toe. I was rushed to Newton Medical, which is now known as Piedmont Newton. Once at Newton, I was monitored in their ER until they had an ambulance ready for me to go to Egelston Children’s Hospital of Atlanta. Once at CHOA, the paralysis spread to my organs and I was put on a ventilator, which I was on and for approximately two weeks.”
Martin said in the months that followed, she was in and out of the hospital in critical condition.
“I also had to relearn how to sit-up, walk, and take care of myself. Eventually I went back to my high school, but nothing was the same anymore,” she said. “With this disorder there is no precursor before an attack happens. I could pass out and become paralyzed at any moment or location. This made my remaining time at school very difficult.”
However, Martin did not let that interfere with her education, going on to graduate from high school and head to college.
“Currently, I am a college sophomore who will be obtaining an associate’s degree this December from Georgia State Perimeter College. I will be transferring to the University of Georgia in the Spring of 2017 to complete my education, Martin said. “However, this will be a very difficult journey for me medically speaking. Since the onset of condition, I have been having more attacks frequently. This raises a concern for my doctors, parents, and myself about my safety as I venture out on this next chapter in my life.”
As a way to better deal with this condition, Martin’s doctor has recommended that she get a service dog.
“The reason I will benefit from a service dog is due to the unpredictable nature of my disorder. With this condition my potassium can literally drop at any time, rendering me paralyzed,” she said. “The paralysis can affect my entire body leaving me unable to speak, swallow, and in extreme cases; breathe. In minor paralysis attacks the paralysis can affect just limbs or mere portions of my body. These attacks can last anywhere from 30 minutes to a few weeks if not treated in time. If not treated in time, it becomes a matter of life or death as the paralysis can spread to my vital organs and begin to shut them down.”
Martin said this is where a service dog comes into play.
“Service dogs are able to aid me by picking up on precursors of attacks but they can also help me with other aspects of my life that the disorder affects,” she said. “The service dog will be trained to help push my wheelchair (which I am in and out of), open doors, pick up dropped items, etc..”
But a service dog is very expensive and the cost is not covered by the insurance company. The family is raising money for a medical alert service dog that will be able to assist Martin as she deals with this debilitating condition. Anybody who would like to make a donation can do so to the Bank of Social Circle under the “Savannah’s Service Dog Account.” There also is a GoFundMe account set up www.gofundme.com/savysservicedog.