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Community comes thru for 16-year-old
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A handicapped teen, Julian Ortega, 16, shows his delight in meeting his future service Golden Retriever service dog as his mother Inez looks on.

Julian Ortega needs a dog.

Not just a dog but a dog that can be his protector and save him from the wrath of the 16-year-old’s unrelenting seizures.

Such a dog can position himself to cushion Julian’s many falls as well as alert his family of upcoming seizures.

Such a service dog will cost the Ortega family more than $15,000 in addition to the cost of traveling on numerous occasions to San Diego to have their son participate in the training process over a three-week period. The service dog will be trained to bark when he senses an oncoming bout of shaking. The dogs have been known to alert families within 20 minutes of a seizure.

A GoFundMe account has been set up for the boy asking for $25,000 to help. So far over $22,000 has been realized in donations to the account. Additional funds are expected to be needed as the young man gets older.

At the age of 2, Julian was diagnosed with Lissencephaly — a rare brain malformation that causes seizures.

As he grew older and went to school Julian was placed in a special education class due to his condition. He was later fitted for a helmet to save him from further injury when collapsing from an attack.

In his younger years he would have only “focal seizures” that only affected turning his head and presenting a blank stare.

On Thanksgiving Day in 2007 he took a terrible fall that resulted in an uncontrollable nose bleed.  He was transported to St. Joseph’s Hospital where leukemia was discovered from a blood test.  He was flown to Children’ Hospital in Oakland by helicopter where he endured three years of chemotherapy treatments. He is currently n remission.

His family said they continually worry about the affects of the chemo and other medications he was given. Julian has the mental capacity of a small child, his family said.  His seizures are continuing and have become more frequent. He has been place on a home school schedule because of their severity.

Julian cannot be left alone for fear he will fall and injure himself.  He needs help in every aspect of his life from preparing meals to dressing as well as in walking because of his instability.

His mother Inez is always by his side, keeping a journal of his seizures logging their dates of occurrence, times, how long they last and the time of his next medication.  Julian has the big grand mal seizures where his body stiffens with jerking movements.  Some of these seizures are accompanied by leg spasms. He is frightened to sleep alone and asks for a night light to be turned on. He usually sleeps with his mother so she can monitor his seizures.

It was mom’s research that discovered the service dog school in San Diego.

Since then a family trip to the San Diego service dog school featured a first meeting between Julian and his dog.

Julian’s dad Jessie Ortega works at Watts Equipment on East Yosemite Avenue near Austin Road. The company has donated fund to help Julian.

Ortega went before the Sunrise Kiwanis Club this past week at the invitation of Manteca Mayor Steve DeBrum. The club members dug into their coffers and gave Julian $2,500 to  help with the additional costs of flying to San Diego three times and the cost of lodging along with a myriad of other costs including a local trainer who will charge upwards of $75 an hour. 

The senior Ortega said his son has quite an appetite compounded by the fact he can’t exrcise much as the exercise — including his favorite of swimming — brings on more seizures.  His dad said he always joins.Watts Equipment vendors in Oregon and Ohio have also added to the needed funds. 

Julian has an older sister Maci, 21, and two brothers Christopher, 24, and Jimmie Zamora, 32.

The Ortegas voiced their appreciation for everyone in the community who have helped their son get his service dog.