HOUMA, La. -- The emotions surface quickly as Cindy talks about the severe form of Diabetes that her 12-year-old daughter Autumn has. Both afraid to go to sleep, afraid Autumn will die.
"I don't sleep longer than an hour, I'm sorry," said Cindy Russ as tears ran down her face. "When your child tells you at night that she's afraid to go to sleep, your heart hurts because a child shouldn't be afraid of going to sleep and not waking up."
"I'm scared, if I go to sleep," said Autumn as she cried, "I could die in my sleep, like go into a coma, and not wake up."
Autumn's blood sugar levels swing wildly, without warning, and at the extremes, she could have seizures, faint, go into a coma, even die. But Autumn has no idea it's happening, so Cindy watches Autumn constantly, emergency insulin supplies ready.
"How often we test her blood? On a typical day, 15-20 times," said Cindy.
Autumn can't spend the night at a friend's house.
"I just tell them I have to take shots all the time," Autumn said. "They say that they wouldn't be able to do that."
Mother and daughter have one hope, to get a dog. Not a pet, but a medical team member, called a Diabetes Alert Dog. They are specially trained to spot dangerous diabetic reactions. At Drey's Alert Dogs facility in Texas, a dog in training alerted on a young volunteer who was found to be diabetic.
"They'll either paw her, or nudge for her to say you gotta go check," explained Cindy.
"If I would go low, it would alert me before I would go low enough to pass out, or high enough to go into a coma," added Autumn.
"If she is unresponsive to the dog, the dog will go ahead and alert me," continued Cindy.
But the Russ family faces a critical problem. It costs $15,000 to obtain a fully trained Diabetic Alert Dog, and that is an astronomical sum.
"Especially with the economy like it is, you know everything is going up," worried Cindy. "We don't have that."
So Cindy is raising funds, hoping to put Autumn's fears to rest.
"I thought that if I got the dog, Mom would be able to sleep more," said Autumn "and I would too, because I would know the dog would be watching me the whole time."
Donations can be made to the Autumn's Diabetic Alert Dog Fund any branch of South Louisiana Bank in the Houma area. Or you can visit Autumn's website at www.gofundme.com/weloveautumn.