Waco community rallies around girl who beat cancer, needs trained service dog to detect seizures

Published: Feb. 8, 2022 at 7:13 PM CST
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - A community of friends and family is once again rallying around a 7-year-old girl who already beat brain cancer but is now experiencing constant seizures and needs a trained service dog.

The group is raising money to get Emma Beth Greenawalt’s four-year-old dog, appropriately named Miracle, specialized training to be a licensed seizure alert dog.

“It could save her life. Most definitely,” said Emma’s mother Missie.

Emma Beth is no stranger to adversity, but she’s had a constant companion for much of the challenges, her German Shepherd. Miracle was a gift to Emma Beth from friends after she completed radiation.

The first grader at St. Paul’s Episcopal School in Waco was diagnosed with an aggressive brain cancer when she was two.

Emma Beth first had surgery to remove the tumor in May 2016, followed by chemo in June and the beginning of 30 rounds of radiation that November.

She was declared cancer free, but as a result of the brain surgery and resulting scar tissue, she began suffering from absence seizures, which involve brief, sudden lapses of consciousness.

Emma Beth underwent recent testing that showed she was having more than 300 of these seizures in only 48 hours.

Missie says it’s terrifying.

“The amount of seizures she’s having, she’s at a high risk of having full-blown seizures,” Missie said. “It’s affecting her ability to learn. A lot are happening at nighttime so her body is just not resting.”

Emma Beth is on powerful medications but Missie and her husband, Micah, wanted to find more relief for their daughter.

Missie found a seizure alert dog trainer in El Paso willing to train a dog for a girl like Emma Beth. Many times, Missie says, trainers want the patients to be a little older so they can better handle the dog independently.

But Miracle seems up for the job.

Emma Beth and her dog Miracle
Emma Beth and her dog Miracle(Courtesy Photos)

“The trainer said ‘I want her so bad,’” Missie recalled. “She has the best temperament and doesn’t meet a stranger. She’s just the sweetest most kindhearted dog so God knew what it he was doing when she was gifted to us for finishing radiation.”

The training is costly at nearly $20,000 for the three years. The result, however, could save Emma Beth’s life.

Missie says Miracle would be able to sense a seizure 10 seconds before it happens.

“She’ll put her paw on Emma’s body and push her body against her and stop her from falling and hitting her head,” Missie explained. “If she’s standing up against a cabinet or a wall, she’ll be trained to put her paws on her against her body.”

Casey Turner is a friend of the Greenawalts and helped organize a fundraiser on GiveSendGo, a Christian crowdfunding site.

Missie works at St. Paul’s, where Casey’s kids attend school, and says her family deserves this gift more than anyone.

“Missie is so sweet and looks after our kids every day. Emma Beth is a living doll, and I could not be more appreciative of Missie’s service to our school. They have gone through a lot and deserve to have this dog for Emma Beth.”

Missie said the support from the community is indescribable.

“We were here in 2016 with a 20 percent chance to live and our amazing community came together for us then and to see them gathering back again, there are no words to express our gratitude and love and how thankful we are to have such a community behind us,” she said.

Missie is hoping to start Miracle in her first session in early April in El Paso for eight weeks.

The goal of the fundraiser is $19,000 which leaves just weeks to raise the additional $14,000. But for Emma Beth and the community behind her, no one is doubting a miracle.

“Emma Beth is so excited to get started,” Missie said. “She already can’t wait to have Miracle at school.”

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