A 17-year-old boy who survived a deadly stroke now lives to tell the tale of the hero dog who saved his life.
Amanda and Daines Tanner, who live in Spring, Texas, were woken up by their one-year-old border collie at around 5 a.m. on Aug. 26. At first they ignored the pup, named Axel, thinking he just wanted to be let outside.
“He was pawing me more than normal to get me to move,” Amanda, 44, told TODAY.com.
The dog continued to try to wake the couple, so Daines got out of bed to open the door for him. But Axel walked right past the door and sat in front of their son’s room and refused to move.
Daines entered the bedroom and found his stepson, Gabriel Silva, suffering from a stroke, slurring words and paralyzed on the right side of his body.
“Axel has always been very intuitive. He can tell when something is wrong — like if we are feeling down or stressed — and he does his best to fix the problem,” Silva told People. “That morning he must have sensed I needed help so he woke up someone who could help.”
Silva was rushed to the emergency room and was then transferred to Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Medical Center where he received specialized care from Dr. Sabih Effendi, a neurosurgeon and the hospital’s stroke medical director.
“He’s 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,” Amanda told TODAY.
“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.”
By the time Effendi saw the boy, he had lost all ability to speak and his right hand was extremely weak. The high school senior underwent a cerebral angiogram, and the doctor discovered he had an artery dissection, an emergency condition that occurs when a tear forms in the lining of an artery, according to Mayo Clinic.
The artery dissection ultimately causes an ischemic stroke, which occurs when a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain is obstructed (clots), according to the American Stroke Association. This type of stroke accounts for 87% of all strokes.
Silva was given blood thinners to restore the blood flow to his brain as quickly as possible, but the doctors said that if he got medical attention any later than he did, he would have been “unable to be functional in life.”
Effendi said that Axel made a “massive” difference in saving Silva from getting to that point.
“Millions of neurons are lost each minute that passes during an ischemic stroke, ultimately impacting speech and movement and could even result in death,” the doctor told People. “Had the family dog not alerted Gabriel’s parents, and had Gabriel’s parents not identified his symptoms as stroke symptoms, the time to treatment could have been severely delayed resulting in a much different outcome for Gabriel.”
He continued, “Instead, Gabriel is walking, talking and looking forward to finishing his senior year of high school.”
Silva spent a week in the hospital before being transferred to TIRR Memorial Hermann where he went through physical, occupational and speech therapy. He’s now in the process of recovering in outpatient therapy — and has high hopes of returning to school and soccer in a matter of weeks.
As for Axel, the brave dog hasn’t left Silva’s side — and Amanda wants to make him a mini medal of honor to put on his collar.
“He’s now tasked with following Gabriel everywhere,” she told TODAY. “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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