Dog Assists Doctors In Monitoring Little Girl During Operation

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A nurse puts 3D glasses on the face of a surgeon before an operation at the Argenteuil hospital, in a Paris suburb, on July 25, 2013. AFP PHOTO / FRED DUFOUR

(credit: FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images)

CBS Charlotte (con't)

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DURHAM, NC (CBS Charlotte) — Doctors at Duke University Medical Center are getting help from an unlikely source in treating a little girl’s rare condition.

JJ the terrier mix was allowed inside the procedure room Wednesday at the hospital because the dog’s nose is more sensitive than any medical instrument at detecting when Kaelyn Krawczyk is having an allergic reaction.

According to, the 7-year-old girl who goes by KK, has a rare illness called mastocytosis.  Her body releases “alarm” chemicals such as histamines in reaction to cold, heat and unknown triggers. Signs of an attack occurring can be a sharp drop in blood presser, which could lead to a heart attack, or facial flushing.

Doctors were doing a procedure on KK at the hospital to try to determine what is causing her to have recurring kidney infections.  JJ, who became the little girl’s service dog 18 months ago, is trained to alert her family members when she is going into medical distress.

“It was kind of logical, actually,” Dr. Brad Taicher told

Taicher, who is an anesthesiologist, came up with the idea to get hospital approval to accommodate JJ during the procedure and to make sure Kaelyn didn’t go into anaphylactic shock as she has done before.

“Knowing what JJ could do, we realized that JJ was not much different from other monitors we use,” Taicher explained to

JJ was rescued from an animal shelter in 2012 and was trained by Deb Cunningham at Eyes Ears Nose and Paws in Carrboro.  She trained JJ to alert to whatever it is that KK exhales or exudes from her skin when her mast cells are erratic.  In the past, KK would have three to four severe reactions a year, but since the dog has come into her life, she only suffered one reaction last year.

“JJ has made it possible for us to give KK a more normal life,” Michelle Krawczyk, KK’s mother, told

She explained that the dog senses a problem before her daughter feels any symptoms and it gives her time to take action to help her daughter.  As KK begins to have a reaction, JJ’s alerts start and grow as the situation becomes more urgent.  The dog will turn in circles, bark loudly and tug at KK’s mother’s clothes.  The service dog can even go fetch a kit containing an EpiPen from a cabinet and take it to one of KK’s parents at the family’s home.

While in the procedure room Wednesday, JJ reacted as expected.  Taicher shared that as a patient goes into sedation and is coming out of it are the most likely times for any patient to react to a sedative so JJ watched for any sign of trouble.  While KK had no serious problems, JJ got up and turned circles as she went under the effects of the drug, Taicher said.

“It sounds silly, in this age of technology, when we have millions of dollars worth of equipment beeping around me, that we had a little dog who was more sensitive than all the machines,” he said.

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