A HERO puppy helped save the life of an “inspirational” Coatbridge teenager who was just hours from death by alerting his mother that he was having a rare form of stroke.
Darren Dawson was getting ready for school when he suffered a bleed to his brain caused by an anomaly that affects just one in 100,000 people a year.
It left the 14-year-old paralysed down his right side and medics faced a race against time to save him.
But thanks to the family’s labrador Douglas, Darren got to hospital in time.
His mum Liz was making breakfast when the pup, now nine months, refused to eat his food and started pacing between her and the door.
She said: “After about the fourth time he did it, I went [with him] and then I heard Darren howling. It was the most horrific sound I’ve ever heard.
“I ran upstairs and found Darren on the floor.”
The teenager was on the operating table at Glasgow’s Royal Hospital for Children just five hours later as surgeons battled to stem the bleeding.
Liz, 49, and husband Gerry, 50, feared their only child would be left in a “vegetative state for the rest of his life”.
She said: “If it had been any longer, he wouldn’t be here. But I never lost hope.
“He is such a determined and inspirational young man.”
Now Darren, who spent three months in hospital, is “six months ahead of schedule” with his recovery, after learning how to walk, talk, feed and dress himself again.
He had a brain arteriovenous malformation, a tangle of abnormal blood vessels linking arteries to veins.
He is thought to have been born with the defect and the devastating bleed could have occurred at any time.
Liz said many children with his condition are left in a coma for three months.
But Darren astounded everyone when he was off the ventilator and out of an induced coma after just four days.
At that point he could barely see a few feet in front of him and was unable to move his eyes from right to left.
He had lost all power down his right side and was unable to sit up or speak.
But just nine days later, on March 21, he managed to say: “Mum, you’re too over-emotional. Happy Mother’s Day.”
Proud Gerry said: “Because he is young, his brain is able to rebuild new pathways.
“And to see the smile on his face when something starts to work again is amazing.”
Darren, who uses a wheelchair and wears a leg brace, knows his recovery is likely to take at least two years.
But next month he will return to school to study for his National 5 exams.
Darren, whose dream is to be a pilot, said: “I just have to keep going for it and never give up on my dream.”