The world changed for Wiscasset's Martina Baker and her family when she was 13. She got more and more allergic to it.
Now 15, Baker goes to school online, wears a mask in public, and is on daily and monthly medicine for mast cell activation syndrome. The teen's allergy-fighting cells go into overdrive, causing sometimes life-threatening reactions that need epipens and trips to the emergency room to treat, her mother Loretta Leighton explained.
According to mother, daughter and other family members, the illness has been a hard change for the previously healthy Baker and hard for the family to always be worrying about Martina’s health and even her life. “I get really sad thinking about her and how this disease has changed her life,” sister Arianna said. “worry about her all the time.”
Among the illness’s other tolls, the precautions it requires has made her lonely, Baker said.
But a change has come. Jan. 5, boxer-mix Caiomhe, 3, arrived at Portland Jetport and into Baker's life. Caiomhe, pronounced Keeva, is trained to detect an episode coming on, alert Baker and get her to safety. The alert comes in the form of kisses around Martina’s mouth.
And Martina said she doesn't feel nearly as lonely now. “She’s like my best friend.”
Tucson, Arizona service dog trainer Jamie Robinson of accesstoservicecorp.org rescued and trained the dog and then visited Maine to work with Caiomhe and the family as they got to know the latest addition to their household that has other dogs, including the locally famous Fritz.
Martina had learned online about service dogs and decided she definitely wanted one. She raised the first $2,000 on a gofundme page and developer-philanthropist Paul Coulombe donated the other $8,000. The family expressed thanks for all the donations, and Robinsion’s work with Caiomhe and them.
Martina’s stepfather Herb Leighton said he is feeling a sense of comfort and relief “that Martina will now have a best friend, and someone with her always to keep her safe and to be there for her after all she’s gone through.”
“Having Caiomhe means everything,” Arianna said. “She keeps her safe. We love her so much."