La Crosse service dog helps Western student overcome health obstacles

La Crosse student returns to college with help of service dog after health challenges

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – Some people can walk right past someone and that person wouldn’t know about their personal struggle. That’s the case for one Western Technical College student. But she’s not alone thanks to man’s best friend.

“I let that hold me back for so long,” Western Technical College student Laura Bialecki said.

Sometimes a person’s kryptonite lies beneath their surface.

“Somebody with a mental illness doesn’t look like somebody that might have a disability,” Bialecki said.

Bialecki understands how hard it is to climb this mountain.

“Came to Western when I was 18. I was originally diagnosed with epilepsy,” she said.

Epilepsy strips a person of their independence Bialecki said.

“I can just be walking and fall over and just start shaking,” she said. “They can last, my longest one was almost four minutes, and I come out of them and I usually don’t know who I am.”

The silver lining, Bialecki has been seizure-free for six years. However, thoughts of them replay in her mind.

“I do have a lot of anxiety driving because a lot of my seizures have been around or near a vehicle,” she said. “I’ve had one driving a vehicle.”

Bialecki has support close by, always.

“He goes to work with me every day,” she said.

Her service dog Brady helps in ways he’s specifically trained to do so.

“It’s an ongoing training,” Bialecki said. “That’s something that you have to keep up with.

“He will lay across me. He can sense when I’m sick. He knows all those things.”

Brady is her second support system.

“I had Chevy. I had him for seven years and he ended up getting cancer,” Bialecki said.

These service dogs restore people’s confidence after they experience significant trauma.

“I definitely wouldn’t have come back to school,” said Bialecki, talking about what her life would be like without Brady. “Definitely wouldn’t have. I know that.”

Brady freed Bialecki from fear of her past.

“Absolutely,” she said. “He definitely has.”

Her hope is others will realize mental illness does not define a person.

“Know that it’s okay,” she said. “I waited till I was 36 to come back to school. I’m doing it. Don’t be ashamed of it.”

Bialecki said others can move forward and they don’t have to walk alone. Laura works at the Onalaska Care Center where she’s worked for 15 years. She’s back at Western to advance in her nursing career.