Local Packer backer looks to community for help
By Heather Graves
ASHWAUBENON – Drew Domalick is an avid Green Bay Packer backer.
“Packers football is a year-round love of mine,” he said. “I love the draft and was really happy to see that Eric Stokes was drafted. I can’t wait to see what he does this year.”
Living in the shadows of Lambeau Field, the 34-year-old Ashwaubenon resident said he’d definitely describe himself as a life-long cheesehead.
“I absolutely love the flyovers that shake my apartment before home games,” he said.
Domalick’s passion for the Pack is evident in his attire, oftentimes decked out in green and gold.
However, behind his fandom is a man who lives nearly every moment of his life on edge, bracing for the unknown.
Domalick has epilepsy – generalized tonic-clonic, which causes him to lose consciousness and severely convulse.
“A seizure lasts anywhere from 20 seconds to a minute or so,” he said. “My doctor said it’s like running a marathon in 30 seconds.”
Diagnosed at age 15, Domalick said it took several months of trial and error to find the right medication combination to begin to combat his seizures.
“Early on, there was a lot of playing around with it, trying to find a balance,” he said. “It wasn’t until well after I was diagnosed that they found how best to go about it.”
Over the past nearly two decades, Domalick said he has had to miss out on things others take for granted.
He is unable to drive, can’t play sports and had to drop out of college and give up his dream of becoming a prison psychologist.
Since he was first diagnosed, Domalick estimates he’s had at least 50 seizures.
If the seizures themselves weren’t troubling enough, the injuries he’s received because of them has sent him to the hospital multiple times.
“I broke my finger by smashing it against the bathtub,” he said. “I fell and hit my chest on the edge of the bathtub and my whole chest got bruised. I was hospitalized because I couldn’t breathe and was having lung issues. The constant tongue injuries are horrible. Imagine biting your tongue as hard as you can and not letting up for about a minute.”
Domalick said he has suffered numerous head injuries, which have caused prolonged headaches and concussions.
“I have permanent brain damage, I’m pretty sure now,” he said. “I can’t remember my phone number or address at times. I’ll just randomly forget them. I really struggle with memory.”
Domalick also said the unpredictability of his seizures is also a huge challenge.
“I can have a seizure at any point,” he said. “I can go a full year without one, and then I can have six in a 24-hour span.”
Domalick said though he’ll never be used to the seizures, he’s learned to live with them and does his best to focus on the positives.
“We have to have some satisfaction in where we are in life, in the present,” he said. “I always try to have a goal to work toward. I have a lot I enjoy in life, whether that’s watching sports or anything sci-fi, pondering cosmology or learning about dinosaurs. There’s always something to think about.”
However, he said he realizes his health can be hard on those around him and has affected some of his relationships.
“One big deal about all of this has been how it has affected my family,” he said. “It’s hard to see your parents be so emotional and get so upset. The same with the friends and girlfriends I have had over the years. It’s really hard for the people who see it even more so than me in some ways because they see how bad it is and get traumatized to some extent.”
Seizure response dog
Domalick currently lives on his own, holds down a job and does what he can to live a normal life.
“I’ve lived in my own apartment for many years, but have always had roommates,” he said. “Just last month, I started living with no roommates. I feel like I’m getting to an age where I’m entering a new stage in my life, if you know what I mean.”
He now looks toward a new journey, which has four legs, a cold nose and a wagging tail.
Domalick was recently selected by SIT Service Dogs out of Illinois to receive a seizure response dog – a yellow lab – from its newest litter, born Sept. 3.
Over the next one to two years, the litter of eight pups will go through an extensive training program utilizing exercises from a program developed by the military.
The dogs will start by learning basic obedience skills.
They then progress to more specific training geared specifically to Domalick’s needs.
He said some skills his service dog will learn include pressing a button that he’d wear if he needs help, retrieving something soft to put under his head during a seizure, using their body to cushion a possible fall or preventing him from getting hurt in a fall, as well as reminding him to take his seizure medication.
He said as training progresses, SIT trainers will pick out the dog best suited for his needs and personality.
“These skills would be very helpful to me,” he said. “I forget to take my medication due to memory loss caused by the seizures. I’m alone a lot, so having a service dog that would be able to call for help would be very useful in case I get injured, which I’ve been hospitalized in the past, due to falls.”
That soon-to-be perceptive service dog, however, comes with a hefty price tag.
Domalick said the cost is $20,000, which includes $17,500 for the dog itself and up to $2,500 for private graduation training.
“For me, it is probably going to be $2,500 because since I can’t drive, they will come up to me and they will train me with the dog,” he said. “I can go down there to their office at any time, but it is eight hours away. So, I will probably meet the dog for the first time when I get him/her through the graduation process.”
Domalick said the graduation process is basically a private training lesson with him, the selected dog and the SIT trainer – walking through his daily routines to get both acclimated to each other and the dog familiar with the surroundings.
He said the $20,000 cost is spread out into 25% increments.
“I recently paid the $4,375 deposit to get the training started,” he said. “And then they want 25% every three months after that. However, they do work with you. The main thing is to have it completely paid off before you get the dog.”
Domalick is working part-time and was recently approved for a $5,000 grant from Wispact – a nonprofit organization that administers special needs trusts for people with disabilities – to put toward the cost.
But he still has a long way to go.
He’s now looking to the community for support with a GoFundMePage.
“I am going to obviously be spending a lot of my own on this anyways, so I don’t want to run down every dollar I have, and then struggle to pay rent and all of that,” he said. “With my job, if I have a seizure, especially if I get hurt, I am probably going to have to stop working. I also have to take care of the dog after I have it – with grooming and expensive kibble food for the extra nutrients.”
Anyone interested in helping can search his name on the GoFundMe website.
“It is a unique kind of bond – a service dog and his owner,” he said. “The peace of mind a service dog brings is something I’m really looking fohttps://www.gofundme.com/rward to.”