I met Carter and his mom Amy last week in Helena. Carter, although a little shy at first, by the time we were done with lunch he was telling me all about what he wants to do with his dog once he gets one.
Carter was born with a number of different respiratory issues and has been diagnosed with severe tracheomalacia (which means the cartilage that comprises his trachea is characterized by a flaccidity that causes it to completely close when he breaths or coughs); bronchial malacia (essentially, his bronchial tubes do the same thing); the airways close leading to his lungs; his lower left lung is collapsed; he has asthma; severe reflux, known as GERD; he requires a feeding tube because for some as yet unknown reason, any liquids he takes orally cause his lungs to fill with fluid; and he sleeps with oxygen at night. Carter is steroid dependent, which has a host of side effects. Carter has been hospitalized close to 50 times and often travels from his home in Helena to Denver Children's Hospital for specialist appointments, surgeries and bone infusion treatments.
Because Carter is dependent on steroids and so much of the focus of his body's early development was on adapting to his respiratory issues, his physical development was and continues to be delayed. His muscles are weak and he lacks endurance. One side of Carter's body is weaker than the other side and tires easily. He has learned to adapt, by dragging that side of his body when the fatigue occurs, but that adaptation also causes him to fall more often and lack overall coordination. The doctors do not know whether the source of his issues may be neurological (theories include a stroke either during pregnancy or shortly after birth).
A service dog will primarily assist Carter with his mobility and also will calm Carter during his procedures and examinations (due to his frequent hospital visits, Carter has anxiety attacks when nearing the hospital and questions whether he is going to be poked).
Although costs for service dogs vary, the cost will likely be greater than $10,000(some service dogs can cost up to $25,000!). Carter's parents are looking into various options for service dogs, one option which may allow in home training to allow Carter to get his dog sooner. My hope is that we can raise enough money to pay for the cost of Carter's dog including the cost of the rigorous training that service dogs require. Once Carter's parents have found the right dog for Carter we will know more as to how much money will need to be raised.
Unlike my previous swims/fundraising attempts, this year all funds will be raised through my new non-profit (The Enduring Waves Foundation) which hopefully will be completely established within the next month. I'm working on the website for the foundation and can't wait to share it with you all! I hope you all will continue to follow me on my journey to assist my new friend Carter!
To read more about Carter, visit his Caringbridge site: http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/carterhasselbach