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Dog Wakes Parents to Alert Them of Teen’s Stroke

A rescue dog saved a teen boy’s life by waking his parents and alerting them about a stroke. The 1-year-old Border Collie, Axel, is now a family hero.

Dog senses teen suffering stroke

According to Today, around 5 a.m. on a Saturday, Axel woke Amanda Tanner and her husband in their Spring, Texas, home. The dog jumped on the couple’s bed, oddly insistent that they get up.

“He was pawing me more than normal to get me to move,” Tanner told Today.

Tanner’s husband eventually rose and went downstairs to let the dog out into the yard. But the dog didn’t want to go outside. Instead, Axel waited by the bedroom door of Gabriel, the couple’s 17-year-old son. Normally, the Tanners wouldn’t have disturbed the boy.

“We wouldn’t have thought to go into Gabriel’s room and wake him up. He’s a teenager. It was a Saturday morning. We went to bed late. We wouldn’t think to go in there until maybe noon,” Tanner told Today.

But Gabriel’s dad entered the room, and immediately saw that his son was in trouble. Gabriel couldn’t feel his right side. He couldn’t grab his dad’s hands or lift his right arm. Also, he was slurring his speech. The couple raced their son to the hospital.

As it turned out, Gabriel had a stroke.

Dog alerted parents just in time

Dr. Sabih Effendi, a stroke medical director and neurosurgeon who treated the teen at Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Medical Center, said the dog’s intervention had a “massive” effect on the outcome of the teen’s case.

“It’s very amazing that their dog alerted and started this whole process of getting everyone awake and going downstairs,” Effendi told Today.

When Effendi first saw Gabriel, the teen was struggling to speak and understand language. An angiogram showed the boy was experiencing a left-sided stroke. Initially, the doctor thought Gabriel might need round-the-clock care – if he recovered.

“When somebody’s acutely having a stroke, the neurons are dying,” Effendi said. “If he was not found and another three or four hours went by, there would have been more and more and more brain injury.”

Gabriel complained of a headache the previous night, but was otherwise healthy. Doctors determined that the stroke happened overnight and was due to a spontaneous dissection. That means there was a tear in an artery delivering blood to the brain. This kind of tear results in decreased blood flow to the brain or even blockages. Unfortunately, these tears are among the primary causes of stroke in people younger than 30.

Man’s best friend

Gabriel’s treatment involved blood thinners and IV fluids to restore blood flow to the brain and increase blood volume. The tear in the artery will eventually heal on its own.

All things considered, Gabriel was lucky. And he has Axel to thank for saving his life.

“The longer that went by without being on a blood thinner, his stroke would have been worse and worse, to the point where he may have been paralyzed on his right side for the rest of his life or unable to speak at all,” Effendi told Today. “Being found earlier because of the dog…that significantly improved his outcome.”

It’s been almost two months since the stroke and Gabriel is on the road to recovery. He receives speech, occupational, and physical therapy. His parents are hopeful he will return to school soon. As for Axel? The dog follows the teen everywhere. Gabriel is planning to make a medal of honor for his canine companion’s collar.


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