News: Marine's Best Friend
Story by Cpl. Lisette Leyva
CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. - “Every time I wake up I’m very thankful,” Kyle said. “As I recover from it, I feel like a little bit of me has died. So, I always wonder how many pieces I have left before I actually do.”
Marine veteran Kyle Reid deployed to Afghanistan in March of 2011 as a landing support specialist with Combat Logistics Battalion 7, Combat Logistics Regiment 17. When he returned home, Kyle spent almost an entire year hiding the symptoms of his post-traumatic stress disorder. He had auditory and visual hallucinations and had night terrors that kept him from sleeping.
It wasn’t until Kyle’s wife Andee had a miscarriage that the truth about Kyle’s PTSD came to the surface.
“Instead of showing some kind of emotion and being supportive, I just kind of said, ‘That sucks,’” Kyle said. “I knew I should’ve felt upset, sad, angry at the world—something. But I didn’t have a feeling at all.”
Andee knew then that something was wrong with her husband.
“It was tough,” Andee said. “He didn’t tell me what he was going through. He didn’t tell me what was wrong.”
At that point, it was either get help or get a divorce, Andee said.
Kyle was diagnosed with conversion disorder, a severe form of post-traumatic stress disorder, in 2012. The illness causes his body to seize and shut down.
“If I get too stressed or anxious, my body decides to hit the reset button,” Kyle said. “My eyes roll, I convulse, and I’m unresponsive.”
When his seizures first started happening, Andee felt helpless. Kyle looked like he was starring off into space. His eyes were open and he’d look people in the eye, but nothing clicked.
Eventually, Kyle was having three seizures a day and was tired of dealing with his illness.
He hit rock bottom.
A doctor suggested the Reid family find a service dog to help them cope with Kyle’s PTSD.
“I heard about a woman who was running a program that trained service dogs for free if you were a combat wounded vet,” Kyle said.
Kyle and Andee decided to train their personal pet, a Boxer named Shamus, to be Kyle’s service dog. When Shamus was five months old, he was trained to feel Kyle’s heartbeat and now helps Kyle calm down when he is in a stressful situation.
“Shamus can tell when I’m getting stressed or anxious,” Kyle said. “He’ll lay his head on my lap, lay at my feet or put his paw on me— something physical that is going to remind me that I need to try and calm myself down before it gets too bad and I do seize.”
If they didn’t have Shamus, Andee said she would be a nervous wreck all the time. Shamus helps take a little bit of that worry away.
There are times when Shamus can’t catch Kyle’s anxiety in time, but Shamus is trained to stay by his side through the duration of the seizure.
“One time, we were at home and I was talking to Kyle and he wasn’t responding,” Andee said. “I called Shamus over and he wouldn’t move. I went into the hallway and Kyle was lying on the floor and Shamus was lying by his head. He was having one of his episodes.”
Shamus was with Kyle the entire time.
This year, Kyle competed in the 2014 Marine Corps Trials, a Paralympic-style event for wounded Marines, at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif. He competed in track and swimming while Shamus stayed on the sidelines, cheering him on every step of the way.
“He doesn’t get in the pool with me and he doesn’t run on the track with me, but I’m always within view so he knows what I’m doing,” Kyle said.
“It’s nice to know I’m always going to have someone watch my back,” Kyle said.