Family seeks medical alert dog for toddler

When Denise and Jim Sgandurra go to sleep, shortly after tucking their 2-year-old twins Aidan and Lukas in for the night,

a timer is set to wake them in a few hours.

Taking turns, they check Aidan’s blood level every two to three hours because he was diagnosed in early April with type 1 juvenile diabetes.

Denise Sgandurra explained he could become unconscious or have a seizure if the levels are too high. If the sugar level is low, though, Aidan’s major organs could become damaged.

Sgandurra, a special education teacher at Masuk High School, said the family is on a wait list to purchase a diabetic alert dog from Guardian Angel Service Dogs, an organization that trains canines to assist diabetics by recognizing fluctuations in sugar levels 20 to 40 minutes before symptoms would occur.

A highly skilled puppy

After completing four months of training, a highly skilled puppy will be delivered to the family’s Monroe residence by a trainer who will spend five days teaching Aidan and those he interacts with about the dog.

Every three months a trainer will return to the Sgandurra home to make sure Aidan’s medical needs continue to be met as he grows. As the puppy matures, he will be trained to perform higher-level assistance, such as calling 9-1-1 if Aidan needs help and no one is around.


Fund-raising event set for June 9

To help offset the cost of the diabetic alert dog, the Sgandurras have organized a fund-raiser for Saturday, June 9, from noon to 5 at the Masonic Temple, 131 Beach Road, Fairfield.

The day’s activities will include face painting, raffles and vendors, such as the Pampered Chef, Arbonne and Tupperware. The suggested donation is $5; part of the vendors’ sales will also be given to the Sgandurra family.


Many health challenges

Surrounded by family and friends, Aidan and Lukas celebrated their second birthday this week. Because the fraternal twins were born prematurely, the boys have already had their share of health challenges.

In early April, Sgandurra took Aidan to the pediatrician with what she thought was a respiratory infection. When he was put on an antibiotic two days later, Aidan started to exhibit symptoms typically associated with an allergic reaction.

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Sgandurra said he was crying uncontrollably, had a rash and kept touching his tongue. “He kept standing by the refrigerator and asking for ‘ice,’” she said.

Aidan was admitted to Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital, where he was diagnosed with Type 1 juvenile diabetes. “The doctors explained that sometimes steroids could make juvenile diabetes rear its ugly head but that eventually it would have come out,” Sgandurra said.

Although they’ve already paid the $1,000 deposit for the diabetic alert dog, there is an eight-month waiting list.


Will be trained in the home

Sgandurra said they could probably have found a less expensive breeder for service dogs but she liked the idea of the trainers bringing the dog to them and training their dog in Aidan’s home.

“We don’t have to uproot Aidan, which is important,” she said. “This is an amazing program. We have to give this kid a break. He’s been through so much.”

Sgandurra hoped to hold the fund-raiser in Monroe, but many venues are busy at this time of year, she said. As natives of Fairfield, she and her husband liked a friend’s suggestion of hosting the event at Fairfield’s Masonic Lodge.

“Our friends and family have been so great,” she said. “Everyone is sending out emails and messages on Facebook about the fund-raiser. It’s so nice to see even strangers reaching out and saying that their company could match a donation. We’ve even had people taking up collections at their offices.”

To make a donation to help the Sgandurras, go to and click on the donate button. Once a donation has been submitted, you will receive an email asking which family your donation should benefit.

Donations also may be made by sending a check to Guardian Angel Service Dogs, with a note that the funds are for the Sgandurra family. The address is Guardian Angel Service Dogs, Attn: Dan Warren, P.O. Box 910, Orange VA 22960.

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