By Alyce Collins
THIS BRAVE girl was left THROWING UP BLOOD for two days after she was BITTEN by a family dog and needed EIGHTY STITCHES and five nasal surgeries to put her face back together – but she still loves dogs.
Weft operator, Ashley Johnson (29) from North Carolina, USA, was at work when her daughter Alexis (7) was with her stepfather Nick (28), at his mother’s house when her pit bull, JoJo (6) viciously attacked Alexis and bit her face.
On October 21, 2018, when Alexis was six years old, she went to play with the pit bull, as she so often did, and as she approached him for a hug, he bit her. Alexis was rushed to hospital and Ashley met them in the car park and fell to her knees at the sight of Alexis’ torn up face.
Alexis immediately underwent a two-and-a-half-hour surgery during which a plastic surgeon had to correct as much damage as possible. Alexis had over 80 stitches in her nose, upper lip and the roof of her mouth.
Since the initial surgery, Alexis then returned to hospital in November to have a nasal surgery to reopen her airways which were closing up. This surgery didn’t work so was reattempted in December, but as the airways were still narrowing after the second attempt, Alexis was referred to ENT specialists in Chapel Hill to undergo three more surgeries in February, March and April. The most recent surgery in April 2019 has proved successful so far.
The pit bull was put down, but the incident hasn’t affected Alexis’ love for dogs as she had to plead with her mum not to get rid of their family dogs as she knew they wouldn’t hurt her.
Alexis has proved her strength throughout the 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.
“I was at work so Alexis was with her stepdad and his mum’s dog,” said Ashley.
“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.”