The Team

Team: Ethan Donahue & Hali

Disability: Focal epilepsy

Partnership Type: Facilitated Medical Alert (subtype: Seizure Alert)                                                         

Handler: Katrina Donahue - mother

Match Date: September 7, 2020

About Ethan

Ethan is a 13 year old who likes to play online building games like Minecraft with his friends and has a fondness for singing along with k-pop. He used to do CrossFit with his family before the pandemic but now he is more likely to be found on a Zoom call with his friends. He lives with his mom, his dad, and his older brother. Outside of the pandemic, they self-describe as a typical overscheduled family.

Ethan has congenital dysplasia of the cerebral cortex and developed focal epilepsy in late 2015 at age eight. His epilepsy is partially controlled by medication but does not look like it will ever be fully under control. He also has sensory processing issues and ADHD. His seizures impact the left side of his body (face, arm, and leg). He generally remains aware during his seizures, which currently happen 2-5 times a month and last 30 seconds to a minute, but his expression is completely impaired. He sometimes has an aura before his seizures but not always; sometimes when he does have an aura, he denies it. About 75% of the time, his seizures will come in clusters, with repeat seizures happening between 5 minutes and 24 hours after the first seizure. Sometimes Ethan’s seizures are minor enough that they are almost like a prodrome warning of other seizures to come; these seizures show up as muscle tension like flexing his arm or smiling and can pass under the radar entirely if Ethan doesn’t let anyone know about them. He may be having more frequent minor seizures than noted, but his doctors believe he doesn’t have significant unusual neurological activity between seizures. The family is not aware of seizures happening at night.

About the Partnership

His epilepsy impacts Ethan in three major ways:

  1. He falls about 50% of the time when he has a seizure, which puts him at risk of concussion or accident.
  2. He has post-seizure paralysis of his left side that often lasts 5-10 minutes. Ethan tends to deny his seizures after they happen so he will get up and walk around before his body is steady enough, which puts him at risk of another fall.
  3. He has limited independence from his parents due to the need to monitor him for a seizure. He had a seizure in the bathtub recently and that heightened the pressure around monitoring.

His family hopes for several things from a partnership with an assistance dog:

  1. Response: That a dog will be able to be with Ethan during his seizures, when he is awake but unable to talk.
  2. Response: That a dog will provide a focus for Ethan after his seizures when he is embarrassed and inclined to return quickly to what he was doing before the seizure. Preferably the dog would help him stay seated until he is recovered, perhaps by lying across his legs or doing deep pressure therapy.
  3. Seizure alert: That advance warnings of seizures could help the family make better decisions about when to avoid activities like the pool or the beach and could help Ethan move to a safe location and position.
  4. Seizure alert and social therapy: That Ethan could gain some independence from his parents through his partnership, and that he would become more independently active through activities like walking the dog.
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