Chris Miller

Hamilton student Chris Miller with the jack he used to help save his neighbour's life in November. (Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board)

Bruce Miller was a little miffed when his grandson Chris came home with a heavy-duty jack last summer that he’d picked up at a garage sale.

Chris had always had a head for machines. Their garage was full of pocket bikes and an ATV that the Grade 10 Cardinal Newman student was fixing up in his spare time. But a heavy-duty jack seemed a bit extreme for the teen, who has autism.

“It turns out he did need it,” Bruce Miller told CBC Hamilton.

In November, Chris used it to help save his neighbour’s life after he was crushed by a car. It's something made even more remarkable by the fact that just a few months earlier, doctors said he’d never walk again after a major stroke.

It happened one evening in late November — that’s when Chris heard a cry for help outside their east-end home. “As soon as he heard the guy calling for help, he ran outside in his bare feet,” his grandfather said.

He found his neighbour, a mechanic, pinned under his car. Chris sped back into the house for the jack, and lifted the car off his neighbour before first responders had even gotten there. The man suffered some internal bruising, but miraculously, didn’t break any bones.

“We were so proud,” Miller said. “He’s been through an awful lot.”

“An awful lot” might be an understatement. Just seven months earlier, Chris endured a stroke caused by Nephrotic syndrome, a kidney disease that made protein leak from his kidneys. It caused blood clots to form and eventually lodge in his brain.

He spent time in a coma at McMaster Children’s Hospital, and a neurologist said he’d likely never be able to move his arms or legs again.

“Then a few days later, his right finger started moving again,” his grandfather said. “Then his left finger.” After several weeks of rehabilitation at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital in Toronto, he was back on his feet.

Other than a slight change in his ability to process information quickly, Christopher is “back to normal,” said his grandmother, Linda Miller.

“Christopher was certainly the hero of the night,” she said. “We’re so incredibly proud of him.”

Chris has always had a talent for working with anything mechanical, his grandfather said. “He’s a kid who just looks at something and knows how it works.”

His family says Chris is quick to downplay his actions, saying he did what anyone else would have done being in the right place at the right time.

“Christopher’s heroic life-saving actions demonstrate his sense of compassion and his willingness to always do whatever he can to help those around him – whether it be in the hallways or classrooms at school or in the local community,” Cardinal Newman principal Dean DiFrancesco said.

“He is a true role model and we are blessed to be able to count him as a Cardinal Newman Cardinal.”