Amelie Gebel is fed up that everyone always assumes she used to eat too many sweets when she was younger and so she’s now had to stop. The 13-year-old has type 1 diabetes and has her blood sugar levels under control – and in case not, her Labrador Balou will sound the alarm if they start fluctuating.
Student in the Rhein-Kreis Neuss, Germany
I have been coping with type 1 diabetes for nine years. People constantly confuse type 1 with type 2 diabetes, as many more diabetics suffer from the latter. However, there are thousands of type 1 diabetics like me in Germany, whose hormone insulin has eventually been destroyed by an autoimmune reaction that causes the body to attack its own beta cells.
Balou has such an acute sense of smell that he can detect a stress hormone in my body if my blood sugar gets too high or too low.
This means I have to inject insulin several times a day, having first measured my blood sugar level. Apart from my family, my diabetes alert dog Balou also helps me. Balou has such an acute sense of smell that he can detect a stress hormone in my body if my blood sugar gets too high or too low. By doing so, he has already protected me many times against hypers and hypos, which can even cause diabetics to faint. You see, Balou takes excellent care of me.
When people learn I’m diabetic, they often say I’m not allowed to eat sweets. Many also think I only got this illness from constantly eating too much sweet stuff in the past. That really irritates me, as it’s complete nonsense. Neither are diabetics required to abstain from anything, nor is type 1 caused by a poor diet.
In my spare time, I do lots of things with my friends and plenty of sport. My friends are cool about my diabetes, and they support me. They adore Balou, of course, who’s often close by. He can even detect if my sugar levels fluctuate from a distance, or if we’re on different stories of a building, and alerts me to the fact by scratching at my leg.
Balou is a certified assistance dog (in the same way as a guide dog for the blind), so he’s allowed to accompany me to school. However, because he always spends all night on guard to warn my parents and me of poor blood sugar levels, which would make mornings at school too stressful for him, he gets to stay off school – at home..
Balou is also wonderful at helping my parents, too. When my father came home late one evening, Balou got up from his basket in the living room and lay down in front of my parents’ bedroom door. This prompted my father to check my blood sugar, and once again Balou was right – it was too low. Clearly, Balou wanted to prevent my father from “simply going to bed” without checking my values to avoid me suffering a hypo during the night. We are all really so happy that Balou is with us and such a great help.
I absolutely love traveling, and of course Balou always accompanies me. He would even be allowed to sit with me and the other passengers on flights. I enjoy traveling to Sweden and Italy best, though, as we can simply all drive there together in the car. I love the chance traveling offers to sample different cultures. Besides English and French, I have even already managed to learn my first few words of Swedish along the way.
My ambition in life is to emigrate to Sweden once I’ve finished studying – best of all, in Balou’s company, of course.