Family Dog Saves Texas Teen Stroke Victim

Axel the border collie
Axel the border collie | Image by Amanda Tanner

A healthy Texas teenager had a sudden stroke early one Saturday morning, and the family dog managed to save his life by getting the attention of his parents.

The Tanners were asleep in their home in Spring, Texas — 25 miles north of Houston — when their family dog, a 1-year-old border collie named Axel, jumped into the couple’s bed at 5 a.m., according to NBC 5 DFW. Amanda Tanner, 44, said the dog had pawed the couple “more than normal.”

Tanner’s husband, Daines, then rose from the bed, thinking that Axel needed to go outside. Instead, the dog led Daines to the room of the couple’s 17-year-old son, Gabriel, stopping just outside the door.

Daines then went inside to check on the teenager. Gabriel told his father that he could not feel the right side of his face while slurring his words, prompting his parents to take him to the emergency room.

The family later found out that Gabriel had been experiencing a left-sided stroke that had produced weakness in the right half of his body.

A stroke, otherwise known as a “brain attack,” occurs when the blood supply to a part of the brain gets blocked or a blood vessel in the brain bursts, according to the CDC. This can cause loss of some functions and even death and requires immediate medical attention to prevent any further damage.

“When somebody’s acutely having a stroke, the neurons are dying. … If he was not found and another three or four hours went by, there would have been more and more and more brain injury,” said Dr. Sabih Effendi, a neurosurgeon at Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Medical Center in Shenandoah, Texas, who treated Gabriel, per NBC 5.

Risk factors for strokes include hypertension, diabetes, and obesity, according to the UK’s Stroke Association. In Gabriel’s case, however, he is a healthy, athletic teen who played varsity soccer.

Effendi said that the cause of the teen’s stroke was an arterial dissection — a tear in the wall of an artery that does not always have an identifiable cause — one of the main causes of stroke in people under the age of 30. Gabriel was given fluids to boost blood flow in his brain as well as blood thinners, but doctors decided to let the dissection heal on its own.

Gabriel has since returned to his home and is recovering from the stroke through rehabilitation as well as speech therapy. He has made significant progress in his recovery.

“I feel like … I was before,” said Gabriel, per NBC 5.

Both the family and doctor credit Axel with Gabriel’s survival. Effendi said that the dog realizing Gabriel’s state early “significantly improved” the outcome of the event.

“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,” said Amanda, per NBC 5.

Amanda said she intends to make a medal of honor for the dog’s collar and reported that Axel has been by her son’s side ever since, with the doors to Gabriel’s room kept open so Axel can move about freely.

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