Heather Lange has partnered with other organizations to help fulfill her dream.
For the dog lover’s garden, planting the endless varieties of daisies is your best bet. The daisy family consists of the gerber daisy, zinnias, and dahlias, all of which add pops of vibrant color and joy to even the most neglected flower beds. The daisy represents happiness and livelihood, and is completely safe to your dog’s tummy should they be tempted to take a bite. Heather Lange’s dream to help other families with epileptic children obtain affordable service dogs makes us think of the beloved daisy that adds beauty to any pile of dirt.
In 2015, Heather, a nurse practitioner, was having lunch with her daughters and a friend when her two-year old, Hadley Jo, started twitching in her lap. Hadley Jo’s eyes rolled back in her tiny head and she stopped breathing. Heather, a trained healthcare professional, lost all composure. “I fell apart in a way that scarred my older daughter, but I felt so desperate. You would have never known I was a nurse that day! It was like being in a dream that I couldn’t wake up from.”
Hadley Jo was soon diagnosed with a febrile seizure. The family was discharged and returned home with what seemed to be a conclusive diagnosis, but a few months later, Hadley Jo experienced a grand mal seizure — a terrifying experience with full body jerking. After this episode, Heather advocated for a barrage of tests at UofL Hospital, but they all came back negative for epilepsy.
“I said, ‘Unh-uh. Something is wrong.’ As a mother, you just know. This is the maternal, not the medical instinct,” Heather explains. So, she made an appointment with the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, where after extensive testing, Hadley Jo was officially diagnosed with three seizure disorders: grand mal, febrile, and complex partial.
Hadley Jo returned home and began her meds but continued to have break-through seizures. Just before she turned 3, an event happened that planted the seed of Heather’s dream. A sitter had brought over her son’s service dog (he also had seizures triggered by PTSD). The dog began whimpering and dancing and circling around Hadley Jo. “I thought ‘I need to take this dog home with me!’ And that is what made me begin my research.”
Heather soon found that Kentucky does not strictly regulate service dogs, and anyone can buy a service dog vest from the internet. Oftentimes, the waitlist for a service dog offered by non-profits is two to six years, and the cost is anywhere from $10,000-$60,000. She soon found an organization in Indianapolis that trained epileptic service dogs and quickly got on the waitlist.
“I was so desperate, and I knew God put this event in my path because it would help us, but the problem was I had to come up with $20,000.”
That is when Heather experienced what she calls another “Godly moment.” Her parish organized fundraising, and in six months raised all of the money for Hadley Jo’s service dog, Ariel. Ariel travels on the bus with Hadley Jo, and accompanies her to school, soccer, and dance lessons. They are a team, and when Ariel begins to bark or circle around Hadley Jo, it means the teacher or parent can administer life-saving meds in a matter of minutes to stave off the seizures.
Now, Heather has partnered with the Epilepsy Foundation of Kentuckiana to launch the Hope for Hadley Jo organization. “I felt so alone and desperate throughout this process, and I didn’t want any other parents feeling that way. I want to provide comfort, and if a service dog provides a family peace of mind, then I want to help, like others helped me.” Obtaining and caring for a service dog is a costly endeavor, and Hope for Hadley Jo is dedicated to helping families find the right service dog and offset some of the costs. “Having a service dog is a financial investment. I want to help other families and to make something good come from something so ugly.”
Hadley Jo and her service dog. Photo courtesy of The Epilepsy Foundation of Kentuckiana. ➤