A 15-year-old girl allergic to most everything under the sun has a new lease on life thanks to her new service dog.
Martina Baker has a very rare disorder called mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS), which makes her allergic to "almost everything," she said. That includes such mundane things as water and heat, as well as perfume and cleaning products.
Just a whiff of cooking oil can send her into anaphylactic shock and, without quick treatment, she could die.
The Maine teen received donations for a service dog and is now the proud owner of Caiomhe (pronounced Queeva), a highly trained pup that smells when Martina is about to have a reaction to something before she even realizes it herself. Caiomhe then stands in front of her to block her path.
"I came from a normal girl with no health issues to one day, my whole life was altered," Martina said. "I am allergic to any smell that is not oxygen we breathe every day," she said.
The symptoms first started when she was 13 and started breaking out in hives. Her throat would close up and the only thing that helped was being jabbed with an EpiPen. She ended up in the hospital about three times a week.
For months her parents took her to doctor after doctor. An immunologist in Massachusetts finally diagnosed her with MCAS. She often wears a mask when she goes outside and is on several kinds of medication, she said.
Her mother, Loretta, doesn't use detergent when washing Martina's clothes and bed linens. The girl is so sensitive to heat, there is none in her bedroom. "I don't know how she tolerates the cold," her mother said, "she lives like a penguin in there."
Martina's service dog has changed her life. Because a canine's sense of smell is thousands of times better than a human's, Caiomhe knows long before Martina does that she is about to have an allergic reaction. The dog smells the release of histamine from Martina's body.
"Martina has endured a lot of staring, pointing and rude remarks etc, people do not understand, it’s very difficult for her but she’s stayed extremely strong, I’m so proud of her,” her mother said. "Caiomhe was destined to be my daughter’s guardian angel."