By Josie Adnitt
THIS BRAVE boy’s face was savagely mauled by his babysitter’s dog and it wasn’t until an hour had passed that someone thought to call an ambulance.
Stay-at-home-mum Tristin Pruitt (31) and iron worker Jeff Pruitt (33) from Walbridge, Ohio, USA, are the parents of Liam Pruitt (5) along with his three siblings – Jailynn (14), Ryan (8) and Knox (2).
When Liam was savagely attacked by a terrier-mix dog on April 28, 2021, the family found their life turned upside-down. Now, he’s too scared of dogs to go to his friends’ houses, where he lashes out by throwing things, screaming and growling.
Tristin, who was 13 weeks pregnant at the time of the attack, left Liam and Knox at the house of his babysitter to wait for the morning school bus while she attended an ultrasound. The babysitter was the mother of one of Liam’s classmates and so Tristin felt happy leaving her sons there.
Unknown to her, the babysitter’s husband kept a terrier-mix dog kennelled. The dog had previously attacked two other children – despite this, they still kept it at the property and did not alert Liam’s parents to this fact.
It was when the babysitter’s husband decided he wanted to introduce Liam to the dog that the dog lashed out from his grip and brutally attacked Liam’s face, leaving him bleeding and in agony.
Tristin hadn’t been away long when she received a call from the babysitter informing her that Liam was at the emergency room.
The whole of the right-hand side of Liam’s face was swollen and covered in blood where the dog had mauled him. His right eye was bleeding and in need of extensive surgery, his cheeks were punctured by teeth, and his lips and throat were heavily damaged and bleeding.
It took eight nurses to subdue Liam enough that they could irrigate and clean his tear duct which had been severely damaged. After cleaning, it took another three-and-a-half hours of sutures and plastic surgery to close all the wounds on his face and neck.
After the initial surgery and time in hospital, Tristin and Jeff learned the full extent of Liam’s gruelling recovery process. Not only does he require further plastic surgery, steroid injections and laser treatment, but the success of his healing relies heavily on staying out of direct sunlight.
Doctors expect Liam to need three to five years of possible treatment and in the meantime, Tristin and Jeff are paying for the medical bills out of their own pocket. As it was a third party that was at fault for the injuries, the insurance company claimed it was ‘similar to a car accident’ and it was the job of the other party’s insurance to cover the costs. The cost of pain medication alone at the first two hospitals came to over £10,000 ($15,000.)
“When I saw his actual injuries my world shattered,” said Tristin.
“I pulled into the hospital and the babysitter pulled in after me. She was covered in blood and Liam was alone in the back of her van screaming.
“While I was trying to get Liam into the hospital and find Knox, she chatted away to me like nothing was wrong.
“She told me she hated the dog and it was the third time it had bitten a child but her husband wouldn’t let her get rid of it. I didn’t say a word to her, I just grabbed my baby and ran.
“Liam had no idea how bad it was and I held it together for him. I played it very calm and soothed him but on the inside I was terrified.
“I was so angry at myself for allowing her to babysit and never asking if she had a dog because I never let people with dogs babysit.
“I didn’t cry or let Liam see me upset until they took him away for surgery. When they took my boy, I couldn’t comfort him anymore and I lost it. I was terrified and livid, I was so angry that these three adults had put my baby in this danger.
“They left him to lie on the floor bleeding for nearly an hour while they cleaned – the babysitter is a surgical technician with medical experience so she must have known that it was bad.
“To rub salt into my wounds, when Liam was lying there on the operating table the babysitter and her husband were making posts on Facebook about how they were ‘living their best life’.
“In between my emotions for Liam, I was calling my other kids and trying to hold it together for them too. It was Knox’s first time with a babysitter and he’d been a witness to this attack and now his mummy hadn’t come home – I was so worried about how it would affect him.
“It was during this time that I found out via a text from the babysitter that the dog was unvaccinated so Liam was at risk of a number of diseases including rabies.
“I was so angry at the whole situation that when I found out the dog was unvaccinated I wasn’t so upset… until I had to take Liam to get his shots. It was like reopening the terror that he’d just endured.
“Even then, finding out the dog had bitten two other children before Liam and they still chose to try and introduce the dog to Liam is what infuriated me the most.”
After initially being taken to the local emergency room, he was transferred by ambulance to Toledo’s Children’s Hospital and then by life flight ambulance to Mott Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan.
Tristin worries that the effect of the attack on Liam will be long-lasting. Since it happened, he has developed intense mood swings and a fierce temper, lashing out angrily by throwing things, screaming and growling. She and Jeff worry they won’t be able to break this anger cycle and it will continue to affect their son throughout his life.
“I remember Liam’s smile and eyes lighting up the room and how he used to love running around outside, especially with his friends in the summer. He loved school and learning and when it was time to sit down he could focus so well,” said Tristin
“However, so much changed after he was attacked. A few months ago he didn’t have an angry bone in his body but now he has nasty mood swings he never had before and we can’t even go out to dinner without him acting out.
“I fear that if his scars don’t fade away it will be the first thing everyone sees, besides his smile and beautiful eyes. I fear he may want a beard one day and not be able to grow one due to the scarring.
“There is the fear that his scars will harden and alter his face, but we’re all praying so hard that it doesn’t happen and trying to keep that fear out of our minds.
“The extreme stress has taken a toll on my pregnancy also as constant worries and stress have taken over, I haven’t even been able to enjoy my last pregnancy.
“We’re having such a difficult time playing catch-up financially too. I had to drop out of school because I missed too many hours and lost the financial aid I received. Jeff missed a few weeks of work as well.
“We’re two weeks late with our rent every month and our bills are getting paid the day they’re due to shut off. We’ve lived cheque to cheque before but even that wasn’t as hard as this.
“We haven’t even received his financial statements from the University of Michigan yet and that’s where the most extensive treatment took place.
“The treatment is expected to take three to five years and we can’t settle the lawsuit until the treatment is done or near done, so in the meantime we have to pay all the costs out of our own pockets.
“That’s not to mention that even when I called the police, nothing was done with the dog! No one came to take it or did anything. We didn’t even find out if it had rabies or not until it had been euthanised.
“We’re so thankful that those tests came back negative.
“I just wish that I’d asked if the babysitter had a dog before I left Liam and Knox there.”
For more information, or to donate to Liam’s fundraiser, visit www.gofundme.com/f/liams-fight-after-dog-attack