The amazing ability of Bree Reed’s four-legged best friend

By Jordan Holloway

For someone like Bree Reed, getting behind the wheel becomes a danger to herself and others if she is impaired. But her impairment isn’t the type most people would think of.

Reed was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes on May 23, 2013, a few weeks after her thirteenth birthday. Every day Reed must check her blood sugar and remember to take an insulin bolus whenever she eats. Unfortunately, over the past few years, Reed lost the ability to sense when her sugar levels fell. Low sugar levels could lead to hypoglycemia, a dangerous condition to be in while driving.

One morning, Reed was driving to her high school, unaware that her blood sugar was extremely low. As she approached the road to her school, Reed began to swerve. She started to lose consciousness behind the wheel and nearly struck a tree. Thankfully, she was unharmed.

“I was extremely thankful I was OK, and I didn’t hit or injure anyone else,” Reed said. “But this incident really put into perspective that I needed something that would prevent these dangerous lows from happening, and myself not knowing it.”

She spoke with her doctors, but they did not have much to offer in terms of prevention. They recommended adjusting her carb to insulin ratio, and the insulin basal rates she received throughout the day.

“At the time, I had all the recommended tools to help me combat this disease,” she said. “I had an insulin pump. I had a CGM (continuous glucose monitor). I had updated settings in my pump which my physicians provided.”

Reed thought she was doing everything she could to keep herself safe and healthy. Until she learned about a new furry therapy.

 

The assistance of man’s best friend.

For years, dogs were trained and used as assistance animals for people with disabilities. Examples include guide dogs for the blind, and psychiatric dogs for veterans with PTSD. Today, dogs are trained to assist diabetic individuals thanks to their great sense of smell, which allows them to detect high and low blood sugars.

Reed received a gift from her aunt in Nov. 2019, a 1-year-old Australian Cobberdog, named Bodhi. After learning about the amazing assistance that dogs could provide for people with diabetes, Reed wanted to train Bodhi to be her Diabetic Alert Dog.

“Because of all of my concerns about losing the ability to feel my blood sugars dropping and just learning about the ability dogs had to smell fluctuating glucose levels, I thought receiving Bodhi was kind of ironic and an opportunity I needed to jump on, especially as I moved away from home to come to Carolina,” she said.

Bodhi began his training that same year, and finished his training in Aug. 2020. When he came to live with Reed full time, Reed felt a weight lift from her shoulders. Bodhi gave Reed a sense of security and allowed her to spend more time focusing on things she enjoyed, without having to worry about her blood sugar levels.

“Living with this disease for eight years, I now have a better understanding of how my body works, and what I need to do on any given day to make sure I am at my best and having Bodhi by my side each day helps to make that even more possible,” Reed said.

 

A dog brings comfort

Bodhi not only serves as a lifeline for Reed, he also provides a feeling of reassurance for Reed’s parents, Scott and Stacey Reed.

“Knowing that no matter if Bree is in class, at her apartment or out with friends, Bodhi is by her side, ready to alert her if the need arises,” Scott said. “That gives me a sense of comfort, like no other, when she is hours away from home.”

“The first night that Bodhi stayed with her, I think was the first time that I actually got a full night’s sleep,” Stacey added. “It gives me a great sense of comfort knowing that something is watching out for her. He’s also just super cute, so that is also comforting.”

For Scott and Stacey, fretting about their daughter 24/7 for the past 8 years has become the norm. They are constantly worried about Reed not knowing her glucose levels are dropping or that an accident similar to the high school one could occur again. However, Bodhi is able to detect the change in levels fifteen minutes before her CGM is able to.

“It is crazy to think that this dog is able to outsmart and outwork a piece of technology,” Scott stated. “But it is not crazy when he belongs to our daughter. It truly is life changing and an added piece of comfort for us as her family.”

 

Teamwork makes the dream work.

Reed graduated from UNC in Dec. 2020, and is currently getting her master’s in social work at UNC Charlotte.

Jessica Martin, a friend and classmate of Reed, met her and Bodhi on the first day of class, and was amazed by the life-saving assistance that Bodhi provided. Martin believes that Bodhi is a blessing for Reed as he helps her live life to the fullest while protecting her.

“Whether seeing them in class or walking around on campus, it just puts a smile on my face knowing that even though Bree has a life-threatening disease, she is able to live a semi-normal life because of the great teamwork that her and Bodhi have,” Martin said.

Edited by Peitra Knight

Hospitals struggle with morale as COVID-19 cases rise

By Hailey Stiehl

A Light at the End of the Tunnel

As the summer of 2021 began, it felt like some normalcy was slipping back into our lives for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic. For healthcare workers, like Emergency Room Physician, Dr. Colleen Casey, this sense of normalcy was the light at the end of the COVID-filled tunnel.

Recently Casey and her colleagues at UNC Rex Hospital in Raleigh, North Carolina began to see fewer COVID patients as the vaccine became widely available. When they ventured outside for a cup of coffee during their breaks, they weren’t as concerned about sitting six feet apart. They left their masks off outside and spoke to each other, about their summer and travel plans they needed after everything they had been through.

“I remember mid-summer not seeing a single COVID patient for four weeks,” Casey said. “It truly felt like the world was opening back up, and our lives would go back to normal.”

A Resurgence in Cases

One weekend towards the end of summer caught Casey’s attention. Four patients were admitted with COVID-like symptoms, a major red flag after not seeing any COVID-19 patients for almost a month. The patients tested positive for the virus, marking a negative shift in plans for a full reopening.

The Delta variant’s surge through North Carolina communities, particularly in those that are unvaccinated, has led to increased hospitalization rates. Healthcare providers are once again facing mounting levels of burnout and fatigue as they battle another surge of the virus.

“Our local hospitals are now full and overwhelmed again,” Casey said. “With all of this happening and having to go back to the way things were during our last peak of COVID, my mental health is taking a significant dive.”

Casey works in the ER but has been helping in Rex Hospital’s COVID unit for the duration of the pandemic. The hospital is currently experiencing a shortage of beds, respirators, nurses and hospital staff. The stress of shortages and extreme work hours combined with the rising cases, has left doctors like Dr. Kenny Michau II, short on compassion for unvaccinated patients.

“I would say I find it hard to have sympathy in caring for people who didn’t get vaccinated for any particular reason, or because of misinformation, and now are very entitled about the medical care they should receive,” Michau II said. “It’s like they don’t trust science but then want science to ‘fix them’.”

Recently, Casey treated a 30-year-old unvaccinated patient who was hospitalized with COVID-19. As Casey made her rounds, the patient repeatedly asked Casey if there was anything she could do, or any medications she could take to make her feel better. Casey said the patient stared back at her in disbelief when she answered with a simple no, as there was nothing more she could do for them.

“They had the opportunity to do something for themselves in the six months prior when they could have gotten vaccinated,” Casey said. “This is part of the reason why we’re now back at what feels like square one.”

The Exhausting Toll

Being exposed to COVID-19 all day isn’t just stressful for Casey and her colleagues’ mental and physical health. It has trickled into their personal lives, impacting their home life and families. Casey’s husband, Tim Miller, has seen the hardships that his wife has experienced from working on the front line of the pandemic.

After every shift, Casey had to take off all of her work clothes in the garage, then immediately shower before seeing her family. There were times when she had to isolate herself in separate rooms in her home for days, away from her husband and children, in fear of spreading the virus to them.

“It was hard for so long having to live like that, in fear that Colleen could potentially give us COVID,” Miller said. “When you come home from work and can’t be around your family because you’re worried of the potential risks of spreading the virus, that’s a heavy burden to carry.”

Dr. Christine Knettel, Vice-Chair of Emergency Medicine at UNC Rex Hospital, has two children under the age of 10, and has faced similar fears of spreading the virus to her family and children.

“During the pandemic, rough days at work have become increasingly more common because of everything we’ve had to see and face,” Knettel said. “And when you have a rough day and all you want to do is go home and hug your kids, but you’re terrified to potentially pass COVID to them. It’s been immensely stressful to now have that additional weight on your shoulders as a parent who works in healthcare with cases climbing again.”

In addition to the fatigue and mental burdens of once again being on the front line against COVID, the emotional toll of the situation has worsened for Casey and her co-workers. Casey recently signed three death certificates in one day due to COVID-19. With hospital restrictions not allowing for family visitation, most of these patients passed without family by their side.

“That kind of thing is heartbreaking to see not only as a doctor but as a human being,” Casey said. “This shouldn’t be happening with a vaccine widely available for most people.”

As Casey and her coworkers are once again required to wear protective equipment to fight against COVID, they think back to the early days of this summer. Days when they saw a drop in cases, when they only needed surgical masks to see patients, and when they thought the battle would soon be over. As cases climb and burnout grows, Casey hopes that the populations responsible for driving the COVID-19 surge will think about helping the community return to normal.

“The choice of individuals to not go get vaccinated at this point is putting me at risk, putting my family at risk, putting my mental health at risk and putting my patients at risk,” Casey said. “I hope that all who can get vaccinated go and do their part to end this so we can fully enjoy all that normal life has to offer.”

Edited by Peitra Knight

Queer love & life on tour: reflections from a Phoebe Bridgers concert

By Claire Perry

When Jessie Gleason burned a custom CD for her girlfriend Eloise Williams, she included a questionable pick: Phoebe Bridgers’ “Graceland Too.”

“It’s a really sad song for a one year anniversary,” Gleason said.

“Graceland Too is about queer women with depression,” Williams added. “And we’re both queer women with depression.”

The couple had been planning to go to Phoebe Bridgers’ September 21 Raleigh concert since Gleason won two tickets in a highly-coveted Ticketmaster lottery back in July.

Gleason and Williams were among thousands of self-dubbed “Pharbs” who trekked to the Red Hat Amphitheater for the skeleton-suited songstress’ Reunion Tour, a celebration of “Punisher,” a sophomore album marked by synth beats and gothic lyrics in desperate need of family counseling and 200 milligrams of Seroquel.

It’s this brutal transparency, especially in reflections on queer womanhood in a heterosexual society like those in “Graceland Too,” that draws Gleason and Williams to Phoebe’s sadder tunes. Even after a year together.

“The lyric that stands out is ‘I could do whatever she wants to do,’” Gleason said. “It’s like, not asking for anything in return because I am in love with you, and I feel like even though it’s not reciprocated — like obviously here, it’s reciprocated, but when you’re young it’s not — that was really important representation.”

Not even the rain, or the musty fog that reeked of expensive beer and stuck Williams’ fishnets to her freezing legs, could shroud the magic of “Graceland Too”. Hand in hand, they snuck to the front of the concert during the intermission, eager to get a better look at the show.

As the band played “Graceland Too,” the rain would make it hard for Bridgers’ drummer turned banjo player to tune to F#. But no downpour could wash away the feeling Gleason and Williams had as they looked in each other’s eyes through the strobe-illuminated raindrops, knowing they would do whatever the other wanted. And the other would do the same.

“Whatever she wants.”

 

“Garden Song”

At 26 years old, Patty Matos was older than most people in the crowd.

She was born in the same year as Phoebe Bridgers, 1994, the year Kurt Cobain died.

Matos is no stranger to fandom.

In 2010, she started a fan event from her bedroom, concerning all things “The Cab,” a Las Vegas rock band, which was celebrated in four continents by its fourth year. The skeleton suits were just a Phoebe Bridgers-edition upgrade to eons of poster board love professions and thrown-on-stage Target bras.

They had heard the artist’s first big song, “Motion Sickness” four years ago, but only really became a fan when “Punisher” came out last year.

It wasn’t long before a single stream of the lead single turned into album listenings, merch buying, and playing “Punisher” so many times in the car that her skeleton-suited mom came to the show.

Tuesday’s concert was Matos’ second encounter with Phoebe this week. They went to the Charlotte show on Sunday, so she had already cried it out, and was unfazed by the fog machine and trumpet fanfare.

When Bridgers messed up the second verse to “Garden Song,” Matos’ favorite track, she stopped singing.

“Oops.”

And resumed.

Matos felt an intimacy to an otherwise ethereal artist, a connection different from any found in all their years of fandom. It was at the same time grounding and illuminating.

“Everybody’s human and we all mess up,” Matos said. “This song talks about getting better and being a better person. And that’s never a linear journey. So, in a way it kind of fits.”

With one mistake, this collision between the Phoebe Bridgers nominated for Grammy Awards and the Phoebe Bridgers who smokes in the Whole Foods parking lot came together in a cosmic and diminutive manner, as if the petals in her song were suddenly knocked down by the torrents cascading five feet from the covered stage.

As Matos grappled with the ethereal humanity 400 feet below her, she understood for the first time why Bridgers sang about her long-perished idol in “Punisher”’s title track.

“What if I told you I feel like I know you,

but we never met?”

 

“Kyoto”

Cora Martin, Gleason’s roommate and a fellow queer femme, stayed behind the couple, nearing the other end of the pit like they usually do at concerts. The pain in their joints makes it difficult to stand for long, but it didn’t stop them from wearing 3-inch-platform Doc Martens.

“Everybody is wearing the same shoes as I am,” Martin said. “I’m having a great time.” 

Atop their platform boots, the crowd wore fishnet tights, flannels and thrifted lace slips, homemade skeleton earrings and unnaturally pigmented hair dye. Bridgers’ own iconic look — glow-in-the-dark skeleton suit, baby-thin white blonde hair and rhinestone black guitar — was the inspiration for this gothic fashion show.

As Bridgers sang Martin’s favorite “Punisher” track, “Moon Song,” the cloudy sky made it seem like the red moon rising above the band on a projector screen was the only one in the galaxy. An anomaly only a Phoebe Bridgers concert could cause.

But that wasn’t Martin’s favorite performance of the night. It was “Kyoto.”

“This one’s for all of the kids who had to lie to CPS (Child Protective Services),” Bridgers said as she jiggled her electric guitar’s tuning pegs, preparing for a B Major.

Martin wasn’t expecting to be emotionally impacted. But that single line brought them back to their childhood with their estranged father. The acknowledgement of the hatred that comes alongside survivor’s guilt struck them suddenly through trumpet riffs and “Woos”, falling on their shoulders like the drops of waning rain.

“So much of what you’re “supposed” to feel is getting over things and becoming less angry,” Martin said. “But I think that there’s really a space for holding on to your rage, and not forgiving or forgetting.”

Their caramel hijab stood out in the crowd, a blanket of increasingly soggy warmth in a sea of black, white and neon. Even as Martin stood alone, away from Gleason, they didn’t feel it.

“When you are growing up queer, you feel so lonely, and then when you grow up and you find somebody that understands you, it still feels so fleeting because you’re so used to being alone,’ Martin said. “I think that that’s why queer artists are so important, because they really understand.”

Maybe the feeling was lost when Phoebe Bridgers, the artist, instantaneously switched places with Phoebe Bridgers, the person, during “Garden Song”. Or maybe, it was lost when she swung around the bra of an audience member, or acknowledged an expletive sign, or drank from a sweating San Pellegrino bottle on stage.

But as a community of peers — queer, femme, and footed in patent leather — shed bits of their own loneliness in the fresh gravel, left drops of it in empty water bottles and discarded wine cans, Martin felt a little less alone. And maybe that’s what loving Phoebe Bridgers is all about.

 

Edited by Peitra Knight