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Dog hailed as hero after saving owner's life

EMMET COUNTY, Mich. (WPBN/WGTU)-- A man who was paralyzed after he slipped and fell in the snow is alive thanks to the heroic actions of his dog.

On New Year's Eve while many were celebrating the start of the new year, Bob was lying in the snow just feet from his home's door, paralyzed.

McLaren Northern Michigan says 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 the commercial break, Bob ran outside of his house in just long jons, slippers and a shirt to get a log for his fireplace. While he was walking outside, he 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.”

Bob laid paralyzed in the snow with temperatures as low as 24 degrees for the next 20 hours. Kelsey the dog kept Bob warm by lying 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.”

McLaren Northern Michigan says when Bob arrived at the 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.

“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.”

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

Since his surgery, the hospital says 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.”


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