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Medical Alert Dog Saves Woman From Dying in Fire


On Wednesday, March 1st at around noon, there was a structure fire at 1820 Tick Ridge Road in Hawesville. Tambra Patton’s trailer caught fire and was completely destroyed. Thankfully, her dog’s barking got her attention and she escaped without injury.

“I try not to get upset about it because I know everything happens for a reason,” Tambra said. “If it hadn’t been for the dog, I don’t know what I would have done.” Three fire trucks arrived quickly and put the fire out, but the fire burned her home and most of what was left inside.

She was resting in her bedroom on one end of the trailer and the fire had started in the opposite end, in the kitchen. She doesn’t know for sure how the fire started but said that fire fighters thought it may have started with wiring in the walls.

“I was watching TV and I wasn’t paying attention,” she said. “I have 3 smoke alarms. I replaced the batteries less than a month ago. None of them went off. The one in the kitchen didn’t go off. I don’t know what happened there. The dog was having a fit. She was running up and down the hall. I went in the kitchen and it was pretty much all smoky and the kitchen was all in flames.”

Her hero dog who alerted her and saved her is actually a medical alert dog and is trained to smell when Tambra’s cortisol is low. Tambra was diagnosed with Addison’s Diseases 8 years ago. It is a rare, long-term endocrine disorder, also known as primary adrenal insufficiency. She takes cortisol shots every 6 hours, or she takes the pills 3 times a day to manage it.

“My adrenal gland has died when my body turned on it and killed it,” she explained, “so I don’t produce cortisol in my body, and that’s what regulates your heart and your kidneys, anything like that.”

When she first got sick, she went to Owensboro Health. “I was down there for over a week and I just kept getting sicker and sicker,” she said. “They called another specialist in and they gave me a bunch of cortisol steroids and the next morning I was doing a lot better.”It affects her energy levels and she has to rest often. “I’m in bed most of the time,” she said. “Because of that, my thyroid has quit working. I have kidney issues. The doctor said he thought I would be in system failure. They are keeping me comfortable and I’m doing good.

When you’re upset or worried, your body produces cortisol and that’s what brings your heart rate down, etc. Well, I don’t have that. So, if I get upset my body has no way to calm down and then I go into what they call Addison’s Crisis. It’s where your heart isn’t working good, your kidneys aren’t functioning  well. I was in the hospital January 1st, and when I got there my blood pressure was 48 over 30. They give you a whole bunch of steroids by IV and it brings it back up to level.”

Tambra is currently living with a friend in the interim and is in need of help with hauling the remains of her trailer. She said she would like help if there is someone who could help. “I’d appreciate that,” she said, “but I don’t want somebody to help me and not help somebody that is worse off than I am. It would make me feel bad.”

She has already been looking at new trailers but said they are very expensive. She is also calling around to find the price of a rental camper for the mean time before purchasing a new home. “Anything I can just sleep in and be out of the burned structure and work on that when I can because it’s going to take awhile to get everything salvaged,” she said. “I’m going to try to get some of those big dumpsters in and do that.

I didn’t have insurance because it’s an older home. I had gutted it and once I got everything repaired then I would insure it because it was so old. I was in the process of remodeling. That’s the reason I  didn’t have insurance because I wanted to wait until I got everything o.k. first.”

Tambra said that mostly all of what’s left of her home will have to be dumped. “I might be able to salvage the stove and the microwave in the kitchen. But, pretty much, what the fire didn’t touch – it’s real heavy smoke damage and soot on everything. I have salvaged some of the clothes and I’ve had a lot of people contact me, wanting to know if I need clothes or money, etc.”

She chooses to believe that God has a hand in everything and will always turn everything around for the good, and her positive attitude is admirable. “I think everything happens for a reason,” she said. “I think some good, somewhere, will come out of it. I truly believe that.”

Tambra turned 60-years-old in January this year. When her health started declining, she retired after 24 years. She worked at Hancock County Ambulance Service and at Century Aluminum’s ambulance service.

“I hired in at the ambulance service in December 1982 and I worked 11 or 12 years and then they started an ambulance service at Century and they hired me to go and start up theirs,” Tambra said. “I worked there until 2006 and then my health got really bad.”

She’s always lived in Hawesville, and her father, the late Darrell Cummings, was a teacher at HCMS for many years. Her late husband, Ray Patton, was a police officer in the county. She is blessed with 2 adult daughters, Jennifer and Heather both live in Tell City.

By Jennifer Wimmer

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