For 20-year-old Hannah Staisloff, each day is full of risks.
The Severna Park graduate has a rare condition that causes her to black out frequently, without warning, and often hurt herself in the process
But soon Staisloff will have some relief, and get the help she needs, in the form of a dog.
Staisloff first started blacking out eight years ago due to a condition called Dysautonomia, which causes a malfunction of the autonomic nervous system. However, she used to have a 30-second warning before the blackout would occur. Within the last three years, the warnings have stopped. Staisloff said now she just blackouts without warning, causing her to fall down and often injure herself.
That’s where Delilah comes in.
Delilah is a medical alert dog from Canine Partners for Life and has the innate ability to warn Staisloff when a blackout is imminent.
“About three years ago, I heard about the dogs and started looking into it,” Staisloff said. “I filled out an application and got on the list two years ago. When they called to tell me they found me a dog, I sat down and cried.”
For Staisloff, who is attending school at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, having Delilah around means more independence and security. But getting Delilah wasn’t easy.
Attaining a medical alert dog is a three-year process full of doctor recommendations, trainings, forms and applications. And now that Staisloff has found a dog, she has to attend a three-week training in Pennsylvania.
What makes Delilah especially unique is that dogs can’t be trained to alert someone of a medical condition—it's something they are born with. They are then trained how to act.
“I am just going to feel a lot more safe with Delilah,” Staisloff said. “Now, I don’t exactly feel safe, because a lot of times my roommate isn’t home, and I have hurt myself—it’s scary. So having the dog there is great and she can get me the phone, so I can call 911 when I need to. I am going to feel a lot more safe and independent.”
While Delilah will provide comfort, companionship and support—it comes at a cost. Staisloff said each service dog at Canine Partners for Life costs $27,000. However, the organization knows that’s a lofty expense, and asks for about $1,000 to $3,000. In an effort to help fund Delilah, Staisloff has setup an online account for donations.
“I didn’t realize how expensive this was,” Staisloff said.
Between vet visits, the high-quality food Delilah eats, and traveling costs for training, Staisloff said the financial burden is quickly adding up.
But despite the cost, Delilah gives Staisloff something you can’t put a price on: security and independence.
“Before I couldn’t go running or swimming, but now I can,” Staisloff said. “She can sit on the side of the pool and detect, even from the side of the pool, when I am going to blackout. And when I am running she can tell me, so that will be pretty cool.”
To make a donation for Staisloff and Delilah, or for more information, click here.