Ashley Dugan, Bentley Lovejoy

Daniel Dye / The Herald Ashley Dugan speaks to the audience as her son Bentley and his service dog Olive sit during a fundraiser held at the Eclectic Warehouse.

Residents of Elmore County came together Sunday at the Eclectic Warehouse to raise funds to cover a $27,000 medical expense for 7-year-old Bentley Lovejoy.

Lovejoy’s mother Ashley Dugan said before her son started showing signs of the heart condition and brain mutation he’s now diagnosed with, he was like any other growing boy — into everything and being adventurous.

“Before all of this, he loved riding dirt bikes,” she said. “He was a typical boy. Now, most days he spends the day in the bed. He does not remember anything. He just does not have energy to do anything.”

Lovejoy began having seizures when he was 4 years old.“We’ve battled seizures for almost four years,” Dugan said. “Last summer in 2019, he stayed in Birmingham for a few weeks. (Children’s of Alabama) did a nonstop EEG. That’s when they noticed he was having a seizure every 71/2 to 8 minutes even if he was sleeping, eating, talking, playing, whatever he was doing.”

In October 2019, doctors at the hospital diagnosed him with SCN1B, a brain mutation in the sodium channel, and Brugada Syndrome which is an abnormal heart rhythm that could result in sudden cardiac death.

Dugan said according to doctors, only two people in the United States have been documented with the combination of her son’s conditions.

“Birmingham did a lot of research, but there was nothing they could do,” she said. “They referred us to Mayo for Children in Minnesota.”

Dugan is facing a $27,017 medical bill for the 27-day treatment awaiting her son.

“His first appointment is Jan. 14,” she said. “Bentley has 15 appointments, four procedures and two surgeries set up. We will be up there for at least 27 days.”

Dugan is confident her son will overcome.

“I spoke with Dr. Fine at Mayo who is over his case,” Dugan said. “They say there is not a cure, but my son will be a walking testimony. We will find a cure.”

The family raised $6,000 prior to Sunday’s event.

“I cannot tell you how many people have just reached out in so many different ways,” she said. “Half the people (at this event) I do not even know. It just means a lot to us. For so many people to reach out, donate items for a raffle and support us just means a lot.”

Today, Lovejoy is assisted by Olive, who is a service dog trained to be next to the young boy’s side.

“The doctors told us a service dog would certainly help with Bentley’s memory and help keep him on schedule and keep him from getting lost,” Dugan said. “So, I called every service dog place there was and the dogs run anywhere from $27,000 to $40,000 for a service dog.

“Clint Lathrop out of Auburn read our story. He donated the service dog. Olive can alert us to seizures and fevers; she can clear his airway, help him with his memory if he gets lost; she sleeps with him and plays with him. She is with him all the time. The silent seizures that we cannot see, she knows. She senses them in every way. If his heart was to get weak, she can sense that. She alerts us in different ways.”

For more information and to donate, search Bentley’s Medical Fundraiser on Facebook or email ashleydugan6@gmail.com.

“We will leave the fundraiser up as long as Facebook will allow us to keep it up,” Dugan said. “I want to thank the community for coming out and everyone who has shown us so much love.”