By Josh Saunders
A teen with a fatal allergy to life survives hour to hour thanks to her canine companion who warns her before deadly reactions strike.
McKenze Messman, 17, from Lincoln, Nebraska, is left housebound most of the time due to her conditions and often sleeps for up to 15 hours a day.
Her initial reaction happened over three-years-ago after swimming in a lake, when on the way home her face ballooned, getting progressively bigger over two days.
Doctors were baffled by the cause the ‘freak accident’ allergy, until she suffered symptoms at school that would lead into seven anaphylactic shocks in one month.
At the Mayo Clinic, she was diagnosed with Mast Cell Activation syndrome, causing her body’s autoimmune system to be trigged by everything from the sun to perfumes and food.
Later she would also be diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS) and XXX (POTS), which collectively act as the ‘perfect storm’ causing seizures, fatigue, muscle pain and more.
The family adopted Makki, a goldendoodle, in 2016, who they would train to sense McKenze’s histamine levels and heart rate are high, to warn her before a reaction.
This allows her to take medication to reduce the severity of her symptoms or get herself into a comfortable place ready for when she has a seizure.
She describes the two-year-old dog as a ‘lifesaver’ with her even able to fetch her EpiPen and on a day-to-day basis helping her to leave the house with fewer concerns.
McKenze said: “When I’m going to have an allergic reaction she licks my hand, for my heart rate being high she nudges my leg or hand, and when it’s a migraine she paws my leg.
“We trained her to sense my histamine levels, but she actually learned to measure my heart rate on her own, she was already in tune with my body and picked up on that herself.
“She alerts me to changes in my body but also picks up dropped items, so I don’t have to bend down and can turn my light off and on when I’m having a migraine.
“Anaphylaxis is when your airway closes, so it can be fatal any time that happen.
“Usually because of Mokki I don’t go into anaphylactic shock, she alerts me 20 minutes prior to it happening, she is my lifesaver, but if I need her to, she can also fetch my EpiPen.
“It’s easier getting out of the house knowing that I will be ok and that I won’t be taken by surprise.
“On a good day I can go outside for two hours but on a bad day I don’t leave the house, it really depends on how I’m feeling.
“Lots of things can cause a reaction from citrus to strong smells like cigarette smoke and perfume, to milk, chocolate, cheese, the sun and more.”
McKenze was nine months old when she suffered an allergic reaction to cow’s milk, at a year old she would suffer her first anaphylactic shock due to nuts.
She abstained from consuming the foods but suffered another two reactions by the age of ten.
Due to this history, her more recent reaction during the summer of 2015, was believed by her family to have been due to the smell of nuts.
But three days into the school year, the symptoms were realised to be worse when hives began to appear on her face.
Over the next three weeks she would go into anaphylactic shock seven times.
McKenze said: “It was pretty scary, but I didn’t want to leave class, so I texted my sister, who then made a nurse come and get me.
“I didn’t want to draw attention to myself and that I was having a reaction, I didn’t think it was going to be that bad.
“We don’t know the cause, but it can be triggered by stress, so from getting assignments done and other things.”
McKenze is now educated at home and often needs to use a wheelchair so that she can avoid triggering a reaction.
She went from training for up to 20 hours a week in gymnastics and three times a week in cheerleading to being mainly homebound due to her conditions.
McKenze said: “Before I was really into gymnastics and cheer, so not being able to do that anymore sucked and was really sad for me.
“Now I have to find things I enjoy and can do better at home, I read a lot, as well as writing and knitting.
The conditions cause a variety of symptoms for McKenze ranging from seizures to fainting, stomach cramps, muscles pain, crippling fatigue and more.
Since having her wheelchair, she has been able to engage with the friends and family more – on her bad days she will need to sleep for up to 15 hours.
McKenze said: “I never feel fully rested so even as a kid I would sleep all the time and being awake is really hard because I’m always exhausted.
“I used my wheelchair most of the time during my bad days to help my joints and if I faint, I know I won’t fall.
Her mother Angie, 42, added: “Before having her wheelchair we found we could go to the mall for maybe 15 – 30 minutes then would have to go home.
“This allows her to there a lot longer and have more family time all getting out as opposed to before.”
McKenze’s family are fundraising to help with her mounting medical bills.
On a daily basis she needs seven different medications and up to 21 pills every day as well as saline fluid which she injects through her port a Cath three times a week.
The donations will also go towards her health, and ensuring the safety of her environment, with medical equipment, specialist foods, medical trips and more.
Despite her difficulties McKenze remains hopeful about the future.
She added: “At first I was really upset as I wanted to be a surgeon but that’s kind of impossible now, I’ve accepted that and want to be a writer – I can do that.”
You can donate by visiting: www.gofundme.com/kenzesfund.