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Dog Saves Owner's Life on New Year's Eve

Published on Tuesday, January 10, 2017

While many were toasting and celebrating the start of the New Year, Bob was lying in the snow, just feet from his home’s door, paralyzed.

Around 10:30 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, Bob was home with his Golden Retriever, Kelsey, watching football and waiting for the New Year’s Eve programming. During a commercial break, he ran out of his house in just long johns, slippers, and a shirt to get a log for his fireplace. The short 15 foot walk turned traumatic when Bob slipped and fell, breaking his neck.

“I was screaming for help but my nearest neighbor is about a quarter mile away and it was 10:30 p.m., but my Kelsey came,” stated Bob. “By morning my voice was gone and I couldn’t yell for help, but Kelsey didn’t stop barking.”

For the next 20 hours Bob was laying paralyzed in the snow in temperatures as low as 24 degrees. Kelsey kept Bob warm by laying on top of him and licking his face and hands to keep him awake. “She kept barking for help but never left my side,” said Bob. “She kept me warm and alert. I knew I had to persevere through this and that it was my choice to stay alive.” After 19 hours outside, Bob lost consciousness but Kelsey kept barking. “She was letting out this screeching howl that alerted my neighbor. He found me at 6:30 p.m. on New Year’s Day.”

When Bob arrived at the McLaren Northern Michigan Emergency Department, he was hypothermic, with a core body temperature under 70 degrees Fahrenheit, in atrial fibrillation, and had a C4-C5 disc herniation. The herniation, in the neck area, was compressing the spinal cord causing acute paraplegia, or weakness or paralysis in the legs. There was also a second disc herniation at C5-C6 with less severe compression on the spinal cord.

The emergency department team worked together to stabilize him. “I was surprised to find out that I didn’t have any frost bite,” said Bob, “I am sure it was because of Kelsey’s determination to keep me warm and safe.”

Chaim Colen, MD, Neurosurgeon at McLaren Northern Michigan, evaluated Bob. “I immediately took the patient back to the operating room for decompression of his spinal cord and stabilization. After the surgery, miraculously, he started to move his extremities with greater strength.”

Since his surgery, Bob has been motivated to get better and back to his farm. He will need intense physical and occupational therapy to help regain strength and function, but he is on the road to recovery.

“I am so thankful for my two heroes,” Bob said. “Kelsey kept me warm, alert, and never stopped barking for help. Dr. Colen saved my life and ability to move. They are truly heroes and I will be eternally grateful.”