Every two hours, every night, an alarm goes off in Taylor and Joy Buckminster's bedroom.
And every two hours, every night, Taylor or Joy gets up and checks their daughter's blood sugar.
This is a routine the parents have had for the past two years. And there have been times when someone didn't wake up for an alarm.
“There are times that you're so exhausted, you may sleep through one alarm, and all of a sudden, you just have this gut-wrenching feeling that you just fly out of bed,” Taylor Buckminster said.
In about two months, the Buckminsters, of Enid, will receive an $18,000 diabetic alert system that will better enable them to predict their daughter's blood sugar.
The system is about 40 pounds, about 8 months old, and goes by the name Memphis.
Kaleigh will be the first to tell you that she cannot wait for her diabetic alert dog to show up.
“I love him,” she said.
Many people are familiar with other types of service dogs, those that help the blind, or help police officers detect drugs.
The Buckminsters will get Memphis from the National Institute for Diabetic Alert Dogs, one of the first companies in the nation to train dogs for this specific purpose.
The family has held at least nine fundraisers to raise money to buy Memphis, who will cost $18,000. So far, they have about $15,800. It's recommended that Memphis eat special food, which costs $50 per bag. Add veterinary bills, and the family is looking at taking on a significant commitment.
But the family understands the cost of Memphis, and more than that, they appreciate what he can bring to their family.
Kaleigh was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when she was 13 months old. Type 1 diabetes is a lifelong disease in which there are high levels of sugar in the blood, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Kaleigh was diagnosed after being sick for three weeks. After several doctor's appointments, her parents took Kaleigh to the emergency room.
When hospital staff took Kaleigh's blood sugar, it was 868. A normal range for Kaleigh would have been 80 to 180. Her blood sugar was so high, the hospital staff thought its machine was broken.
“They've told us several times that it's a miracle she's still with us,” Joy Buckminster said.
She was sent to an Oklahoma City hospital and spent two days in the pediatric intensive care unit and another four days in the hospital.
Time for adjustment
It will be a while before Joy and Taylor Buckminster trust Memphis to alert them of Kaleigh's levels.
It takes between six months and a year before a dog is accurate. But the more time Memphis spends with Kaleigh, the better he will get.
This is especially important as Kaleigh grows older and starts going to school.
Memphis will be trained to paw at an adult, such as Joy, Taylor or Kaleigh's teachers, if her levels are off. Once Kaleigh is old enough, he will learn to paw her when her levels are off.
Ed Peeples, the president of the National Institute for Diabetic Alert Dogs, said a diabetic alert dog is trained to smell its owners' changes in blood sugar levels. When someone with diabetes has high blood sugar, their body produces ketones, which produce a sweet smell.
Ketones are produced when a diabetic's body starts burning fat for energy instead of glucose, according to the American Diabetes Association. If a diabetic's ketone levels are too high, it can lead to diabetic coma or death, according to the association.
Alert dogs also smell when their owners' blood sugar gets too low. In this instance, it's more of an acetone smell, Peeples said.
For Memphis to learn what Kaleigh's smells were, her parents placed cotton balls in her mouth when she had different blood sugar levels. Memphis learned to detect Kaleigh's varying smells.
Clients have told Peeples that their dogs saved their lives. However, the dogs are not replacements for the tools they use to measure their blood sugar.
Instead, the alert dogs can serve as a companion, someone to help watch over a child's diabetes when a parent isn't around, such as when the child is at school, Peeples said.
“We train the dogs to sleep on the side of the bed, so they can be trained to wake you up,” Peeples said. “They'll alert you when they're low, so that's kind of a peace of mind because every parent's worse nightmare is having a child go into the 30s or 40s and have a seizure while they're sleeping.”