17-Year-Old Had a Stroke; Family Dog Alerted His Parents, Saving Precious Moments

  • Gabriel Silva is a 17-year-old in Spring, Texas, who had a stroke in the early morning.
  • His border collie alerted his parents, enabling them to quickly get to a hospital for blood thinners.
  • Without Axel, Silva could have needed to use a wheelchair and lost his ability to speak for life.

Amanda Tanner had been sleeping on the morning of August 26 when her family’s rescue border collie, Axel, jumped on her bed to wake her and her husband at 5 a.m.

“He was very adamant,” she told Business Insider. “His paws were on my chest. I thought he needed to use the restroom, and I was pretty annoyed about it. I asked my husband to go let him out downstairs.”

Axel gave them a sign something was wrong

At 5:45 a.m., Tanner’s husband, Daines, made his way downstairs to open the door and let Axel out, but Axel wouldn’t budge from the bedroom door of their oldest son, Gabriel Silva.

“It was a definite indication that the dog gave my husband that something was wrong with Gabriel,” Tanner said.

Axel had a history of being protective of his family. Tanner recalled when Axel jumped in the pool when he seemed to think one of the children was drowning.

“He’s very intuitive,” Tanner said. “He is always in tune when somebody is upset and will go cuddle that person.”

Their son wasn’t able to speak or move his right side

Silva, who had woken up at 5 a.m. unable to sleep, fell when he attempted to walk around his room.

“My vision was getting really big,” Silva said. “It was like looking through binoculars.”

He had been considering waking up his parents to tell them he had fallen when he heard the commotion outside his room and came out.

“I tried to tell him what had just happened, but then I realized I couldn’t say what I was trying to say,” he said. “I was panicking.”

Silva’s dad instructed him to grab his hands and go upstairs to see Tanner.

“He laid on my bed,” Tanner said. “He tried to talk to me, but his speech was getting worse and worse. He couldn’t move his right side. It’s when we knew this would be a hospital visit.”

Tanner thought only older people had strokes, not 17-year-olds

Tanner had “no idea it could even be a stroke,” she said, adding that she thought strokes happened to older people only, not a healthy and active 17-year-old boy.

“He had no issues before,” she said, adding that her son was a very active high-school student who regularly played soccer.

With his dad, Silva made his way to the closest hospital as Tanner stayed at home with her three other children. By the time he got to the emergency room, Silva could hardly walk and had essentially “passed out.”

Silva was diagnosed with an artery dissection

Following a short evaluation, Silva was transferred to a Memorial Hermann medical center for a higher level of care and seen by Sabih Effendi, a fellowship-trained cerebrovascular and endovascular neurosurgeon and the stroke medical director at the hospital.

After several tests, Effendi diagnosed Silva with an artery dissection.

“There was narrowing and injury to a blood vessel in the brain,” Effendi said. “We started him on blood thinners right away.”

His mother learned her son might never speak again

Typically, if a patient like Silva comes into the hospital with severe symptoms of a stroke, there’s a chance they will stay like that forever.

There was a high likelihood Silva would not be able to fully understand language or speak again.

“And the weakness on the right side of the body would have led to needing a wheelchair for the rest of his life,” Effendi said.

When all of the possibilities were being explained to Tanner, she couldn’t comprehend the situation.

“It was all lost — all over,” she said. “It was very real. He wasn’t speaking. He wasn’t moving. I don’t think I’ve ever cried that much in my life.”

Axel’s quick thinking helped Silva’s chance of recovery

Fortunately, since Silva was quickly given blood thinners following his stroke, some of the blood flow was restored to his brain and the brain injury was lessened.

“The prognosis is now very different,” Tanner said. “It is not over. He’s walking. He’s eating. He’s talking. And we are preparing for him to go back to school and play soccer again.”

Axel played a huge role in making Silva’s recovery possible.

“He was found by the dog that alerted the family,” Effendi said. “It saved time and neurons. The longer a stroke goes on without medical care, the more irreversible damage happens.”

After intense physical, occupational, and speech therapy, Silva is now hopeful for the life ahead of him and thankful for Axel.

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