TIGNISH, P.E.I. - A teen from Skinners Pond is approaching a two-year wait for a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) service dog with optimism.
Isabelle Buote, 15, who has been suffering from fainting spells and seizures since she was 12, was recently diagnosed with disassociation, a type of PTSD.
“I still get that sick feeling in my stomach that something is wrong, and it’s a lot different than a normal sick stomach. It’s my self-conscience telling me, ‘oh, you’re going to take an episode,’ or ‘I need to get out of here.’
She has started experiencing headaches prior to episodes, the likes of which she describes as “agony, or horrible brain freeze.”
She has also been known to run off and climb trees while experiencing episodes, and to have no memory of those actions afterwards.
Buote started Grade 10 at Westisle in September, and says her school year has been going fairly well despite hallucinations and the occasional episode there. She’s taking a full course load including two courses in a classroom setting and two in resource.
“It feels good. Gets things rolling,” she said, describing her re-integration to school after having missed most of her junior high years due to PTSD.
“She’s everybody’s child,” said Jacquie Lidstone, one of Buote’s two education assistants this year; “we all look out for her, the whole school: her friends, her teachers, the staff, so she’s everybody’s student.”
And Buote welcomes the support. She’s also opening up more and more about her PTSD challenges. Last summer she organized a PTSD awareness walk.
“I feel like I have a job to tell people my story so that they understand what I’m going through,” she said.
The awareness walk also highlighted Buote’s campaign to get a PTSD service dog. She is now in the application stage for getting a trained service dog from a company in the United States.
It could be another two years before the dog arrives, but she’s taking that wait in stride.
“The last three years went by so fast since I got sick that I don’t think another two years is going to make a difference. It should go by pretty fast.”
She’s counting on the dog helping her to become more and more independent, something that will be critically important once she finishes high school and leaves home for university or work. Currently, she said, her father, Brian, needs to watch out for her 24/7. He even stayed in the parking lot when she first started high school, she noted. Knowing that she’s safe will provide relief for him, she acknowledges.
“Let’s say I’m tapping my leg. The dog will notice that and interrupt the behavior and start licking my face. If I push it away, it will start doing it even more: It distracts you,” she noted, describing how a service dog could help interrupt an episode.
A trained service dog will cost $5,000 (USD). Isabelle and her father will have to fly to the U.S. for a week of training prior to delivery.
To help with the costs, a committee consisting of Lidstone, Lisa Carragher, Lissa Profit, Carol Morgan and Madison Pitre has started a fundraising campaign, and their first activity is a benefit concert this Sunday night, Oct. 21, at the Tignish Legion. It will run from 7 to 10 p.m. Blair and Dale Gaudet are helping to co-ordinate the live entertainment and the auction. There will also be a donations box, raffle, cake auction, 50-50 and sale of refreshments.
The student council at WestIsle is also planning special fundraising activities in support of the cause next week.