Jeff Redman, a retired Army staff sergeant, has good days and bad days. The 45-year-old veteran was injured by mortars in Iraq in 2006 and now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and the effects of traumatic brain injury.
He also has a tendency to fall and pass out. So 19 months ago with the help of Saving Grace, a non-profit that helps military veterans train service dogs, Redman saved a shelter dog from euthanasia. “I saved him and he saves me.”
He named the 100-pound Italian mastiff Malachi. “We looked in the Bible and chose that strong name for him,” Redman explained.
Redman and Malachi are inseparable. “He follows me around everywhere. I am prone to falling and he can help me get up. He helps me navigate distances and makes sure I stop at curbs. He can get my wife Melissa if I need help,” he said.
Last week, Redman passed out in the shower and Melissa had to call 911 for help. The medics took Redman to Novant Health Rowan Medical Center for evaluation because it was thought he was having a stroke.
Malachi rode along with Redman in the ambulance. “Sometimes people are not very supportive of service dogs, but the medics understood that Jeff needed Malachi and the respect they showed for both Jeff and Malachi was tremendous,” Melissa said.
Melissa admits that it can sometimes be a challenge for her to get others to understand that the pair needs to be together, but she said the staff at Novant Health Rowan Medical Center embraced them. “Malachi barks at times to warn that Jeff may be having an episode and people are afraid of him,” she said.
“Service dogs are allowed in the hospital when they are properly certified, but most dogs aren’t this big,” said Tammy Efird, the nurse manager of cardiac telemetry.
“He is huge, but he is gentle and he slept at the foot of the patient’s bed. Team members loved to give him peanut butter,” she said.
Redman was being treated in the telemetry unit for syncope, a temporary loss of consciousness usually related to insufficient blood flow to the brain. It's also called fainting or "passing out." It most often occurs when blood pressure is too low and the heart doesn't pump enough oxygen to the brain, according to the American Heart Association.
“He would fall down, he was light-headed, suffered from dizziness and made jerky movements. He also had slurred speech but we did tests and ruled out a stroke,” Efird said.
Redman was discharged on Sept. 21and is feeling better.
Melissa said the family is grateful for the understanding and support the family received from everyone she encountered during her husband’s illness.
Meanwhile, Malachi remains ever vigilant. And looking forward to his next gob of peanut butter.