by Lisa Tome
A sense of normalcy for Joe and Heather Coudon is several thousand dollars and about two years away.
The Coudons, of Rising Sun, are working tirelessly to get an assistance dog for their five-year-old son, Trace.
Trace began having seizures in October 2013. In May of this year he was diagnosed with a rare form of Epilepsy - Autosomal Dominant Nocturnal Frontal Lobe Epilepsy. He won't outgrow it. The seizures cause him to stutter at times, wake from sleep often, and cause him to have difficulty with memory, comprehension, and recognition. He is on medication which has lessened the severity of the seizures.
"He's so tired after a seizure. It's so exhausting for him. And that carries over into the next day," said Heather.
Getting a service dog will assist with alerting Trace and those around him when a seizure is imminent. The family has the responsibility of raising $15,000 of the $22,000 needed to get the dog trained and certified. The Coudons are working with a non-profit, 4 Paws for Ability. That organization provides assistance dogs which are unique for each child. The money must be raised through donations and fundraisers. The family and their friends are planning numerous events in hopes of raising the money over the coming months.
The seizures are silent and occur when Trace is sleeping. This has impacted not only Trace, but all those around him. In some instances, he has attempted to get out of bed. That was one of the factors which drove his parents to begin the process of obtaining a service dog. The seizures also impact his behavior the next day.
"He is on medication which makes the seizures mild. But he wakes up every night. We have never slept through the night," said Heather Coudon. "We know when he's had a seizure because he's a different kid in the morning. He gets frustrated so easily and it throws him off," she said.
Their older son, Joey, sleeps with Trace sometimes. "That's a big burden," said Joey Coudon.
Initially, the family believed Trace was experiencing night terrors. They learned he was too young. The family has undergone extensive genetic testing. Heather has researched the ailment extensively. The family applied for the assistance dogs filling out seemingly endless applications. They also had to provide reference letters and a neurologist wrote a prescription establishing the need for a dog.
One of the goals of a seizure assistance dog is to provide safety, comfort, and a friend for Trace, while also providing reassurance of his safety to the family. The dog will be trained to assist in seizure detection prior to it occurring. Having a companion is also expected to give Trace a sense of independence.
Once the money is raised, the dog will start training classes. The family will go to Ohio for Trace to bond with the dog during the training. The whole family, including baby Harper, will learn about and train with the dog. Best case scenario is once the funds are raised, Trace will have the dog in 20-24 months.
The family started a facebook page to build awareness of their need. "It blew up. I was shocked. People have offered fundraisers and services. As of last week, there were 55 donors. A beef and beer fundraiser is planned for early next year," said the couple.
"He's (Trace) excited. He says 'when I am seven, I am getting a dog'. He knows it will be his dog," said Joe.
Heather has watched videos with Trace showing him the benefits of an assistance dog.
"I was so excited to hear we'd been accepted," said Heather.
"It will give Trace his independence back. He will have freedom. He's a fun loving kid and he can be outside," said Joe. "He's aware that he's different. That dog will give him comfort and relieve his anxiety."
"For the whole family, this will give us normalcy in our lives back. This will bring us back together and we will be able to pay attention to other things," they said.
"It's (the offers of help and donations) been so nice. It's nice that people are so understanding that this is a need. Families go through way more than this," said Heather.
"Trace is one of a kind. He's just an awesome kid. He has the neatest personality. He plays little league. This (dog) gives us hope for the future," said Joe.
Donations towards a service dog for Trace can be dropped at the Maryland State Police North East Barracks in care of Joe Coudon. Monetary donations are tax deductible.
Please write "Trace Coudon" in the memo line of the check so the donation goes to the family.
You may also mail a check directly to 4 Paws for Ability in honor of Trace Coudon at 253 Dayton Avenue, Xenia, Ohio 45385. Write Trace Coudon on the memo line.