DISTRESSING CONTENT WARNING:
A 7-year-old girl girl needed 80 stitches and five face surgeries after being savagely mauled by a family dog.
In October 21 last year Alexis Johnson was with her stepfather Nick, 28, at his mother’s house in North Carolina, US.
She went to play with pit bull, JoJo as she had many times before but this time he viciously attacked her as she went to play with him.
She was rushed to hospital and underwent two-and-a-half-surgery where she had stitches in her nose, upper lip and the roof of her mouth.
For two days after the attack poor Alexis was throwing up blood.
She went back hospital a month later to have a nasal surgery to reopen her airways which were closing up – but the procedure didn’t work.
The youngster underwent another procedure in December but afterwards her airways were still narrowing.
She was then referred to ENT specialists and underwent three more surgeries in February, March and April this year.
The most recent surgery has proved the most successful so far and her scars are now healing well.
Despite her ordeal Alexis still loves dogs and pleaded with her mum not to get rid of their family dogs.
The brave youngster has remained string throughout her ordeal, with her only worry being that she would lose her smile.
At first, Alexis was afraid of people seeing her scarred face, but as her scars heal, she has rediscovered her confidence.
Her shocked mother Ashley fell to her knees when she met Alexis in the hospital car park following the horrific attack and saw her injuries
She said: “I was at work so Alexis was with her stepdad and his mum’s dog”.
“Alexis would always play with him and he would even sleep with her. From what I was told, she went to give him a hug, as she always did, except this time he bit her.
Her stepdad pulled the dog off her and then called me, and we met at the hospital. They called in a plastic surgeon to put her face back together which took two and a half hours in total. She was admitted for two nights before they let us go home.
“I was in a state of shock and completely heartbroken. All I did as soon as I saw her was fall down and cry. One of the doctors caught me while her stepdad got her out of the car.
“I was terrified for Alexis because it was so bad, and I didn’t know if she would make it as she had lost so much blood. She threw up blood for two days because she had swallowed a lot of it.
“I still cry at night when I think about it. I’m just grateful that my daughter is still alive. Whether she returns to looking like her normal self or not, my child is alive, breathing and doing fantastically. I could have easily lost my whole world that day, but I didn’t, she pulled through like the trooper she is.
She had over 80 stitches all together, on her face, in her nose as the bite destroyed her nasal airways, the upper lip at the gum line in her mouth and the roof of her mouth as well.
“In total she’s had five nasal surgeries, the first two were in November and December 2018 to open her airways. She then had three additional nasal surgeries in 2019, one in February, March, and April. The last three were done in Chapel Hill because the ENTs back home referred her there since what they were doing wasn’t working.
“The last surgery that was done in Chapel Hill and that seems to have worked as both Alexis’ airways are staying open. Her recovery was rough at the beginning because she had constant appointments and more surgeries, but after about three months, when the stitches were taken out, it got easier.
The dog was put down, but Alexis isn’t afraid of dogs because of the accident. We have two pit bulls ourselves and I was going to get rid of them as soon as we got home, but Alexis cried and begged me not to.
“She said she knows our dogs would never harm her. She’s not scared of other people’s dogs either, but I told her she isn’t to go near them unless I’m there. I’m more scared of her being around strangers’ dogs than she is.”
Alexis’ scars have improved since the surgeries and she is no longer afraid of letting people see her. She will require another operation on her nose when she is 16 or 17 years of age, once doctors believe that her nose is finished growing.
Ashley hopes to warn other parents to be cautious allowing their children near dogs, even if it’s a beloved family pet as you can never be certain how they will respond.
Right after the accident, Alexis was scared to let anyone see her because her scarring was severe. But now, since she’s started to heal and her smile is coming back, she has her self-esteem and her confidence back. She still calls herself beautiful,” said Ashley.
“She will have to have a rhinoplasty, a nose job, when she’s around 16 or 17. The plastic surgeon wants to give her nose time to finish growing first though, and they’re also talking about possibly doing some scar revision too.
“I tell her that her scars make her who she is, and they show that she’s a survivor. I also let her know that with time the scars will fade, and she’s starting to see that for herself because her scars are looking better every day.
I still love dogs and I don’t want to ever see them being mistreated or hurt. Although, I am more sceptical when Alexis’ friends come over now and I make sure my dogs are kept aside.
“I worry about her being around other dogs that I don’t know because anything can happen at any point, for any reason.
“Even if you know the dog, please always be careful around them when kids are involved because anything can happen. You never know what that dog might be thinking or going through at the time. I never thought this would happen to my sweet girl, but it did.”