Dog saves owner’s life after paralyzing fall left him outside for 20 hours

(Courtesy photo | McLaren Northern Michigan)
(Courtesy photo | McLaren Northern Michigan)

EMMET COUNTY, MI — An Emmet County man who spent 20 hours lying paralyzed outside his home earlier this month is recovering “amazingly” thanks in part to his dog.

According to our media partners at Mlive.com, neurosurgeon Chaim Colen said the man, who wished only to be identified as Bob, would likely have died if it hadn’t been for his golden retriever, which kept him warm while howling for help on New Year’s Day.

“The dog was vital,” Colen said. “It was providing warmth. Had the dog been smaller, it would have likely died in the frigid temperatures. He was very fortunate to have a very big, hairy dog.”

Bob was spending New Year’s Eve at home watching football when he left the house to retrieve a piece of firewood during a break in the game. Stepping outside around 10:30 p.m., he slipped and fell, breaking his neck as he landed in the snow.

Immobilized, Bob told doctors he yelled for help but lost his voice after a while, and eventually passed out. His dog, Kelsey, provided heat throughout the 20 hours, barking and howling until neighbors found him around 6:30 p.m. Jan 1.

The temperature dipped to 24 degrees overnight.

“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,” Bob told McLaren personnel. “By morning my voice was gone and I couldn’t yell for help but Kelsey didn’t stop barking.”

Emergency crews were called to the home, where they transported the injured man to McLaren Northern Michigan. He arrived at the hospital with a core body temperature under 70 degrees.

Disc herniation in the C4, C5 and C6 vertebrae caused compression of Bob’s spinal cord, which led to the weakness or paralysis in his legs. He also had an irregular heart rate, which can lead to stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications.

“He could barely move his upper and lower extremities,” Colen said. “I don’t usually operate on the weekend but sometimes I have. This guy was a legitimate case to take back right away.”

Almost as amazing as Bob’s survival is how quick his recovery has been thus far, Colen said. Before being transported from the hospital to a rehabilitation center, Bob was able to take 40 steps.

“Someone with this type of spinal cord injury, you don’t see them moving for quite a while … The fact he was even able to start walking before he left, that’s absolutely amazing. He also has a very positive attitude, which I think adds to his recovery.”

The surgeon predicts Bob will make a full recovery — good news for the man who hopes to get back to his farm soon.

“I am so thankful for my two heroes,” Bob told McLaren staff. “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.”

Check out more from Mlive.

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