It was a calm Saturday morning when Amanda Turner and her husband were suddenly awoken by their dog. Axel, a one-year-old border collie, bounced wildly on their bed insisting they got up. “He was pawing me more than normal to get me to move,” Tanner described.
Her husband went downstairs and opened the door to let the dog out. However, Axel did not follow and stopped outside of their son Gabriel's room, intent on not moving. Little did they know, the healthy high school student was behind those doors having a stroke. The father then checked on the boy and discovered how serious the situation was. He was slurring his speech and could not feel his right side.
Gabriel was quickly rushed to the hospital. Dr. Sabih Effendi, a Neurosurgeon and Stroke Medical Director at Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Medical Center, who treated the teen says that Axel alerting the parents of trouble made a "massive" difference in the outcome.
“It’s very amazing that their dog alerted and started this whole process of getting everyone awake and going downstairs,” Effendi continued. “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.”
The cause of the stroke was unknown at first. Gabriel says that he only had a headache the night prior, but it had gone away. Additionally, the morning of the stroke he difficulties lifting his right arm, but did not experience any pain. “There was no pain,” the teen says, but recalls his vision got “really fuzzy” and “zoomed in.”
By the time he made it to the hospital he was struggling with speaking and understanding language. Tests then showed that he had suffered a stroke on his left side. “It was scary. I remember Mom (was) very distraught and our team, too, so worried about him,” Effendi recalls. At one point, the doctor thought Gabriel might need 24/7 care even if he recovered.
“He’s in his senior year. He’s (in) varsity soccer. And I’m like, what just happened? A whole life of planning and it all looks different now,” Tanner says. An artery that spontaneously breaks off was determined to be the cause of the stroke. Despite this unlikely occurrence, everyone is grateful of the actions of Axel to save the day.
“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 says.
“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 adds. “Being found earlier because of the dog … that significantly improved his outcome.”
Gabriel has been making a recovering thanks to physical, occupational, and speech therapy. As for Axel, “He’s now tasked with following Gabriel everywhere,” she says. “He’s now sleeping with Gabriel more, and Gabriel’s doors are open so he can go in and out. He’s always been very sensitive to everything and everybody’s emotions at home.”
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