Louisville mother aims to provide service dogs to children with epilepsy

Louisville mother aims to provide service dogs to children with epilepsy
Ariel alerts adults when she senses Hadley Jo about to have a seizure.

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - A five-year-old Louisville girl suffering from seizures has found help in a new companion.

"I’m Hadley Jo and I have epilepsy!” exclaimed the fiery, little redhead.

It’s a big word for such a small girl. At 5-years-old, little Hadley Jo doesn’t know any different.

Louisville girl saved by epilepsy service dog; mother wants to help others

At just 2-years-old, Hadley Jo was diagnosed with epilepsy. She suffers from three different types of seizures that are hard to control.

“She has a 20 percent mortality rate every time she has a seizure and that’s what I live with,” her mother, Heather Lange, said.

With no family history of the condition, it came as a scary surprise for Lange.

“When your child is diagnosed with an incurable disease, your heart just sort of sinks and you become desperate,” she said.

Lange wanted to make sure her daughter would grow up and have a normal life.

“I don’t even care about it,” Hadley Jo chimed in.

The 5-year-old doesn’t care because now she has some fuzzy, four-legged help. Lange realized after someone else’s service dog alerted her to one of Hadley Jo’s seizures, maybe her solution came on four legs.

“That was just an eye-opening experience because I never thought there are other options out there other than the conventional medications,” Lange said.

Lange did some extensive research on service dogs and found Ultimate Canine, out of Indiana. Ultimate Canine trains all types of service dogs, including LMPD K-9s. Lange reached out to the owner, Julie Case, to match Hadley Jo with a dog.

Lange also found out a service dog can cost between $10,000 and $60,000.

That’s when her community stepped up and in just six months, helped the family raise enough to get Ariel.

Ariel is a labradoodle that was bred and trained to be a seizure alert animal. Each dog is heavily evaluated from birth. Out of Ariel’s litter, only she and one other sibling made the cut.

“She keeps me safe,” Hadley Jo said.

She calls Ariel her best friend and says her kisses are the best part.

“She alerts us so that we are able to administer rescue medication in less than two minutes to stop a seizure,” Lange said. “I don’t know of any human or any other option that’s available out there that can provide that for my daughter. That’s a pretty big deal to me.”

Ariel is trained to break command and act differently when she senses a seizure coming on. Lange said she will get up and act anxious, walking around the room between Hadley Jo and the person she’s trying to alert.

Ariel never takes her eyes off of her little girl.

“She’s my eyes and ears when I’m not around,” Lange said. “She goes everywhere Hadley Jo goes. She goes to school, she rides the bus, she goes to dance class, she sleeps with her. She is really a gift from God, a blessing for my family.”

Ariel goes everywhere with Hadley Jo, even on stage at her dance recital!
Ariel goes everywhere with Hadley Jo, even on stage at her dance recital! (Family photo)

After Hadley Jo received such overwhelming support from the community, Lange wants to return the favor.

“Ariel saves Hadley Jo’s life and to me that is -- there are no words to describe how that feels as a parent,” Lange said.

That’s why she started her own non-profit that provides funding for families who think their child could benefit from a seizure alert dog. Lange partnered with the Epilepsy Foundation of Kentuckiana to start the Hope for Hadley Jo Project.

Those interested can donate to the project in two ways:

Follow Hadley Jo’s story on Facebook.

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