A teen who suffered a spontaneous stroke got the help he needed before it was too late thanks to the family dog, who alerted the teen’s parents that something wasn’t right.
Klein Oak High School senior and varsity athlete Gabriel Tanner, 17, lives in Spring, Texas, with his parents, Amanda and Daines Tanner. Gabriel has two biological siblings, and the Tanners are also foster parents. Axel, a 1-year-old border collie mix, is one of three beloved family dogs who saved Gabriel’s life one Saturday morning.
“God had His hand in everything,” Mrs. Tanner told The Epoch Times. “The intuition that the dog had is beyond what we humans have.”
‘Everything Was Caving In’Already used to severe headaches, Gabriel had a migraine on Aug. 26. He felt like “it was normal” and went to bed. Then at 5 a.m., he woke up, and a few minutes later he had a stroke.
“I’m not sure what I was trying to get, but I was trying to do something,” Gabriel told The Epoch Times. “It was on my way back to my room to go back to sleep, that’s when the stroke happened. I didn’t lose my balance, I just kind of fell.
“I couldn’t pick myself up. I was there for like, maybe two minutes ... eventually I got up, and I was trying to figure out what just happened. It felt like everything was caving in on me. There was no pain or anything.”
Gabriel went back to bed and tried to fall asleep, intending to tell his parents about his strange experience when they woke up. He remembers seeing Axel, who roams freely in the house, outside his room.
Mrs. Tanner said: “My husband and I’s bedroom is on the second floor, over Gabriel’s bedroom. Around 5:45 a.m. is when Axel woke me up. ... He was very adamant to touch me and go with both paws on my chest to make sure that I was awake. I just thought he needed to use the restroom. My husband’s usually the early riser, so he went downstairs ... to open the sliding door to let Axel out. Now, Axel did not go out. He stayed in front of Gabriel’s bedroom.”
Gabriel, hearing activity outside his room, came to the door and tried to talk to his father. He was slurring his words. Mr. Tanner asked his son to grab with his hands to see if he could hold the same strength in both and quickly knew there was a problem.
“I didn’t even know I was slurring, and I couldn’t feel my arm after I had fallen,” said Gabriel. “I couldn’t lift it, I couldn’t get a great grip.”
Mrs. Tanner said that at that moment her husband just knew that there was “something seriously wrong.”
A Crucial RoleMr. Tanner called round to local hospitals while his wife got their son ready to leave the house. Mr. Tanner then drove Gabriel to Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston, around a 7-minute drive from home, and walked into the emergency room saying, “He’s having a stroke.”
Gabriel was transported by ambulance to Memorial Hermann’s main hospital site, The Woodlands.
“It took the hospital a couple of tests to determine that it was a stroke,” Mrs. Tanner said. “They did the MRI, and they did an echocardiogram and were able to determine that it was an artery dissection that happened.
“Your artery has layers like an onion,” she said, “and the inside layer can tear and separate itself, limiting the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain, which is the cause of the stroke. ... In his case, it was spontaneous.”
The Tanners knew that Axel had played a crucial role in getting their son to hospital fast. Their neurosurgeon, Dr. Sabih Effendi, agreed.
‘God Had a Plan’Axel was found as a puppy, alongside his siblings, after their mother died. He was the “reject,” and the Tanners fell in love after meeting him at Make A Stand Bully Rescue in Houston in 2022.
“He was the happy dog,” Mrs. Tanner said. “He’s always been very intuitive, he knows he has to take care of the family. We have a pool in our backyard; if he sees that the kids are screaming too much in the pool, he jumps in to try and pull them out. But we never knew the extent of it.”
Gabriel spent his first week after the stroke in the neuro intensive care unit of Memorial Hermann. On day three he began physical, occupational, and speech therapy. During his second week, he was transferred to TIRR at Memorial Hermann, the intensive care rehabilitation center.
“He had to relearn everything,” his mom said. “He had to relearn how to walk and the mechanics of that; he had to relearn how to eat and the mechanics of that; he had to relearn how to tie his shoes.”
When Gabriel was in rehabilitation, hospital staff brought in therapy dogs to help patients with their recovery. Mrs. Tanner thinks Axel could one day be a therapy dog himself.
Gabriel went home exactly two weeks after his stroke and is “doing amazing,” although “still has a lot to go” with speech. One change in the family home is that Axel now sleeps with Gabriel.
“We’re together a lot more. ... he’s always on my bed,” the teen said.
Mrs. Tanner, an accountant, and her husband, a warranty inspector, were both born in Brazil. They met in New Jersey as children, aged 7 and 9, when their families moved to the United States in the very same year.
“We grew up together,” said Mrs. Tanner. “We used to go to the same church.” Years later, at the hospital with Gabriel, Mrs. Tanner “saw and felt the touch of God in everything.”
“I know that sometimes we humans tend to be so focused on ourselves that we lose the sensitivities that God has given us,” she said. “[Gabriel’s] recovery is unusual, the dog is unusual, us being close to the medical center, where it’s got the second highest-rating rehab for strokes, that’s unusual. ... Everything has His hand in it, and without it, we lose meaning on everything.”