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Chocolate Lab Makes Remarkable Recovery From Paralysis

By Christy True
June 25, 2020 • 5 min. read
Fizban dog looking sad

Key Takeaways

  • Pet parent Aaron and his chocolate lab Fizban had their lives shattered when a car accident paralyzed Fizban in January.
  • Aaron took extraordinary measures to get Fizban healthy again, even moving cross country to live with relatives so he could take Fizban to a rehabilitation center.
  • After surgery, stem cell treatment, and months of therapy, Fizban has regained almost all his mobility.

Diagnosis: Traumatic injury
Total Claims: $28,474 | Healthy Paws Paid: $22,279
Policy Option: 80 percent | $250 deductible

The day it happened – Jan. 2, 2020 – will be seared into Aaron’s memory for the rest of his life.

He was driving near his home in Palmer, Alaska, with his best friend Fizban, a six-year-old chocolate lab, sitting in the passenger seat. Another car illegally entered the roadway and Aaron, unable to stop or avoid it, smashed into it. He watched in horror as his beloved companion crashed into the front windshield.

“I heard his howls of pain that went on for what seemed like forever. Seeing his body stiffen as it did — his legs immobile, his howling. I almost lost my ability to function, but he needed me,” Aaron recalls.

A bystander helped Aaron strap Fizban to a plank and lift him into his truck and they rushed to the nearest veterinary hospital. There, he was stabilized and Aaron soon learned the basics of how severe the damage was: a fractured vertebra that was causing him to be completely paralyzed in the rear and show weakness in the front legs.

The first few days Aaron thought he was going to lose his constant companion and adventure buddy. He struggled with whether Fizban would have a reasonable quality of life if he did survive.


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A special bond

But he had three things on his side. As a previous veterinary technician, he knew there were treatments such as stem cell therapy that could help Fizban regain his mobility. He was enrolled in a Healthy Paws insurance plan that he knew would help with the financial burden. While the Healthy Paws plan does not cover stem cell therapy, which is still considered experimental, it did help cover the surgery and months of rehabilitation and physical therapy. And then there was Fizban’s indomitable spirit.

As hard as it was, Aaron knew he had to save Fizban’s life. The two have had a special bond ever since Aaron adopted him as a puppy.

“He has been with me through a divorce, a heart attack, and a number of other life-altering events. He’s helped me through the most difficult times of my life. Sometimes I wonder where I’d have been without the strength I gain from knowing he loves me, and he needs me,” he said.

A long, painful recovery

After a successful surgery to correct the fractured vertebra, Fizban had to remain strapped down for 10 days. During that time he also received two sessions of stem cell treatment, a fairly novel approach for pets in which stem cells from the bone marrow are injected into the damaged area and the cells suppress inflammation, relieve pain, and allow new tissue to grow. Aaron paid for those treatments out of his own pocket.

Through it all, Fizban was alert and remained the spirited dog that Aaron loved.

“We didn’t start to see improvement until a week in. That was the longest, hardest, most tear-filled week of my life,” Aaron wrote. “Seeing him there, still 100 percent Fizban, happy to see everyone and confused why we wouldn’t let him stand up.”

Fizban was required to remain in the hospital for a full month before he was ready to go home. Once he got out, Aaron made an extraordinary decision: In order to get Fizban the ongoing treatment that he needed, he left his job and relocated temporarily to the Chicago, Illinois area where he had family and could access Canine Physical Rehab, a veterinary hospital that could provide the rehabilitation services Fizban needed.

Fizban would undergo daily sessions of hydrotherapy, laser therapy, and land exercises. He was also receiving acupuncture and massage. Soon he regained his ability to stand, sit, and move his legs. Aaron ordered him a wheelchair for his hindquarters while he worked to regain strength and balance in his legs.

Remarkably, within weeks, Fizban was chasing a ball with his hind legs supported by the wheelchair. Within two months, he was fully weight-bearing. Since then, he’s continued to progress.

“At every step along the way in his therapy, I’ve gotten nothing but slack-jawed amazement at his recovery, progress, and determination. I couldn’t be prouder, as a dog dad,” he said.

Almost back to normal

Today, Fizban still has a palsy in his rear right leg and his gait is off, but it doesn’t affect his buoyant, joyful outlook in the slightest, Aaron said.

“Indeed, the hardest part is making sure he doesn’t get ahead of himself. He’s always been an energetic guy…sometimes he forgets his hindquarters aren’t what they used to be. But I’m always there to get him up the steps or onto the bed, or wherever he needs to go,” Aaron said.

The time that Aaron took off to care for Fizban has inspired other changes in his life.  He has returned to Alaska and is fixing up a bus into a tiny home that he plans to live and travel in with Fizban by his side. He will write about his adventures and work on his hobby of drone photography in beautiful places.

You can follow Aaron and Fizban’s adventures on Instagram.

Fizban the labWhy Healthy Paws?

Aaron signed up for pet insurance shortly after adopting Fizban because as a vet tech he had seen the “soul-crushing” decision that some pet parents had to make to euthanize their pets because they couldn’t afford care.

“Pets are family, and I never wanted to be caught in that position. Never,” he said.

When choosing a plan, he did his research. He asked friends and colleagues, looked at online review sites, and read the details of various plans.

“I knew that if I ever needed to use my insurance, I wanted the best one out there. The resounding consensus was Healthy Paws,” he said. “I wish I never had to use your services, but now that I have, I couldn’t be happier.”

The claim scenarios described here are intended to show the types of situations that may result in claims. These scenarios should not be compared to any other claim. Whether or to what extent a particular loss is covered depends on the facts and circumstances of the loss, the terms and conditions of the policy as issued and applicable law.

Insured people providing testimonials in this report have not received compensation for their statements.

If you are a Healthy Paws pet parent with a recovery story to tell, we’d love to hear it! Send your pet’s story along with photos of your four-legged family member to

Be prepared for high vet bills in case of an accident with your pet. Find out more about dog insurance (and cat insurance) and start by getting a free quote. Bonus: Each quote means a donation is made to homeless pets.

Christy True and Tomas
By Christy True

Christy has been writing about pets for Healthy Paws for 21 dog years. She previously worked in journalism, hence her penchant for writing about offbeat animal studies and the latest viral pet trends. She has been owned by several dogs, and right now, Tomas, a Mexican street dog rescue, is staring at her because he wants a walk. Outside of work, she can usually be found sliding down a mountain near her home in Bend, Ore.

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