Spaghetti fundraiser to help 5-year-old get service dog after traumatic brain injury

After suffering a traumatic brain injury before turning two months old, 5-year-old West is battle epilepsy and is need of a service dog to assist him at night. (Photo courtesy of Hope Rathe-Holman)

The toddler years have been anything but normal for 5-year-old Weston of Gillette. The normal thing he could use right now is the kindness of the community to help him get a service dog (seizure alert dog) which he is in dire need of because of chronic seizures. 

In 2016, Weston suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) before he turned two months old. He had a brain bleed and had to be flown to a Denver hospital in a life-saving emergency. 

Weston has since been diagnosed with epilepsy and needs a service dog that will be trained to perform life-saving measures when he has seizures in his sleep. Following doctor visits in Denver and in South Dakota, and after his neurology tests, it was decided that it would be beneficial for him to have a dog. 

“Weston started suffering from seizures at four months old and had to be put on a rescue medication for his Gran-mal seizures,” said Weston’s mother, Hope Rathe-Holman. “He is now 5 years old and is battling constant seizure activity with no relief from the medication, so now he has to have an alert dog trained to alert family if or when he has seizures while sleeping.” 

A mother and son moment during his tough times. (Photo courtesy of Hope Rathe-Holman)

It’s been a rocky five years because of the extra attention Weston needs that makes it tough for his mom to not be by his side every minute of the day. 

“As a mother, it is very hard not to worry about your children. It is even more worrisome with something like this because seizures can happen at any time and not everybody knows how to handle them or what to do for him if he has an episode,” his mom explained. “It is heartbreaking to have so many unknowns and to see your child struggle and not be able to take any of that away.” 

Having a service dog would benefit Weston immensely.  

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“The dog will be trained to alert me when he has a seizure at night by ringing the doorbell, nudging him to try to get him to come out of them, and flip Weston over if he’s on his stomach and help him with his terror seizures,” Hope said.  

Growing up, Weston has required a lot of his mother’s attention and has had more than the typical mother/son time as a toddler since she also taught him in her class in South Dakota at a school/daycare program, which allowed her to be with him a little more when he had seizures.  

Weston is currently being tested for school in Campbell County this year, Hope said, and while he faces a life of challenges, she believes the support system is strong enough to handle anything thrown his way.  

“As for him being older with this, I am not sure what’s going to happen, but I am confident we will take it one day at a time, and with his support system we have we can get through anything,” she said. 

Service dogs are not covered by insurance, which leaves the family searching for ways to cover the $30,000 price tag for the assistance dog, a hefty price tag that comes from the animal’s vigorous training. The dog goes through two years of special training, and then two more weeks of training in Nebraska at the training center along with Weston and Hope.

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There is no price too high when it comes to saving the life of a child and Weston’s family hopes that the fundraising event set for this Saturday, Jan. 8, will help get them closer to getting Weston his much-needed furry companion.  

The event is scheduled to take place at the Sundance Lounge beginning at 7 p.m. There will be a benefit spaghetti dinner for $10 a place and a meet-and-greet with Weston. Additionally, prizes large and small will be given out with raffle drawings and a live auction that starts at 8 p.m. 

Every penny raised and every plate of spaghetti sold will go towards getting Weston his four-legged friend that could one day save his life.  

Those who want to help but can’t make it to the event may make a donation in Weston’s name at Campco Federal Credit Union or they can contact Hope at Hope.ratheholmon@gmail.com 

“The dog will essentially become his lifelong best friend,” she said.

What do service/seizure dogs do?

Service dogs, aka seizure-assist dogs, can be trained to stay close to their companions for the duration of the seizure, as well as fetch medications, a telephone or caretaker. A seizure-assist dog is trained to assist the human companion. Other benefits include:

  • Some dogs have been trained to bark or otherwise alert families when a child has a seizure while playing outside or in another room.
  • Some dogs learn to lie next to someone having a seizure to prevent injury.
  • Some dogs learn to put their body between the seizing individual and the floor to break the fall at the start of a seizure.
  • Some dogs are trained to activate some kind of pre-programmed device, such as a pedal that rings an alarm.