Seizure response dog to take perch by side of epileptic Hebron woman

Will help 22-year-old with seizures

HEBRON – Katelyn Winter is in the middle of a sentence about her grandpa – about how he, too, had epilepsy – when some unknown word starting with the letter “I” is cut off. There’s something firing off in her brain.

It’s small. Winter doesn’t lose consciousness or convulse this time. But, as her mother quickly explains, Winter, 22, has just had the latest in a life of almost daily seizures that started in 2008 – a life the family hopes will be greatly improved when a seizure response dog joins the family.

“See, she’s having one,” Joan Winter said. “OK, this was a short seizure you just witnessed. You see how she was trying to talk and it went ...”

She stretches open her mouth as if her jaw has a different agenda than her mind.

“Now, she yawns,” Joan Winter said. Sitting across the table, Katelyn Winter yawns. “Now, she might not be able to talk.”

“OK, now I can’t talk right,” said Katelyn Winter, a graduate of Alden-Hebron High School. The thought about grandpa has escaped.

It’s a moment that has become too regular around the Winters’ Hebron household. Winter has a variety of seizures – grand mal, partial complex, clusters, throat seizures.

It’s the bigger ones that cause concern. Katelyn is standing at the sink and suddenly, her head smacks against the stove behind her – a drop seizure, as the family calls them. Or, Katelyn is watching TV in the living room, and suddenly she’s crossing Route 47 in a trance-like state, pulled by some commanding voice – sometimes, her brother’s, that exists only in her head – a seizure that acts nothing like what’s portrayed in the movies.

It’s these seizures that led the Winter family to raise money for a seizure response dog, a hound that will be by Katelyn Winter’s side 24/7. It will be trained to alert others when she has a seizure, and to lay on her legs during convulsions.

It will attempt to break Katelyn’s fall during drop seizures, and should she ever do something like wander into traffic, she will do so with a big, furry, visible dog by her side. The dog would likely bark to alert Katelyn of the pending danger.

But maybe the most exciting – although yet unproven – prospect: Over time, some believe, the dogs can develop a sense for when their masters might be on the verge of a seizure. In that case, it would bark to tell Katelyn to sit – an odd human and dog role reversal that could end up saving Katelyn from a future injury.

The dogs cost about $12,000, and when the Northwest Herald was first notified of Winter’s story, the family was about halfway to the fundraising goal. Within about a week, the gap closed. The Winter family – mainly by circulating the fundraising page through social media – has raised the $12,000.

“We told everybody to share it,” Joan Winter said. “Family and friends, they started sharing. And we got over 100-and-some donations from different sources all over.”

The Winter family will pass along any donations that come in over the $12,000 mark to the Chelsea Hutchinson Foundation, which helps provide resources to epileptics who need them.

How to help

To donate to Katelyn Winter’s fundraising page, visit redbasket.org/183/katelyns-hopes-and-dreams. Since Winter has met her goal to get a seizure response dog, all additional funds will be passed along to the Chelsea Hutchinson Foundation, which helps provide resources to epileptics who need them.

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