When everything changes in an instant. A guest feature.

For me, the most valuable part of blogging has come from the ability to share personal experiences and stories with a wide audience. Being able to write candidly about issues I have faced and continue to face has brought a great deal of relief and comfort into my life. It has also given me invaluable connections to people who would not have found their way into my life otherwise.

Although we live in the highly-connected internet age, there are still many topics that remain taboo. We put so much of ourselves online and yet there are still things that we find are too difficult to share. But oftentimes it's these difficult stories that ought to be shared the most. They can help you to heal, and others to learn.

The following is the harrowing experience of my dear friend Courtney in regards to the devastating dog attack that her daughter Taylor suffered earlier this year. Both Courtney and her daughter were diagnosed with PTSD after the attack, and both are still coping with it every day. Here are the details of the day that they will never forget...

WARNING: Very graphic images behind the cut.

Taylor and Courtney a few months before the attack.

It seemed like such a typical day. Nothing stood out as out of the ordinary. Nothing made me think I should remember the way she smiled at me before she went out front to play with her friend. Nothing made me think to memorize her face, her wispy baby hairs that just barely covered her forehead, her soft beautiful untouched skin. I didn't think to take just one more moment to breathe in her sweet, unharmed, childish innocence. I didn't think to give her one more kiss and tell her one more time how much I love her. She just wanted to play outside with her friend. It was supposed to be a typical day.
My husband was serving in the Air Force and we lived in a small town about 10 minutes outside of the base my husband was stationed at. Our entire neighborhood was inhabited by military families. Our house was situated in the middle of a cul-de-sac and my daughters best friend just happened to live right across the street. Taylor, my 7 year old at the time, loved playing outside with her friend and enjoyed playing with the other neighbor kids on our street. Most of the families on our street had dogs and Taylor was familiar with all of them. We even have a large dog, a newfoundland labrador mix that we adopted when my husband was in Afghanistan. Taylor knew how to behave around all animals, especially large breeds.  She was gentle and loved our dog and the neighbors dogs as well.  At the time I had no idea that the great dane down the street had lunged and barely missed biting one of the neighbor boys just a couple months prior. Had I known that this dog was aggressive, or even *could* be aggressive, I would have told Taylor to stay away. I would have told her to be extra cautious and to just leave that dog alone.

It was unusually warm that day and Taylor was itching to play out front with her friend. As soon as the neighbors car pulled into their driveway she ran out the door as I quickly reminded her of the rules. She was a pro at following the rules and I trusted that with the neighbors watchful eyes, she would be ok to play in the yard while I stayed inside to tend to her baby brother. I could see her and her friend through our giant front window as they giggled and played games in the yard. My 6 month old son was getting sleepy and ready for an evening nap, so I sat down on the couch to nurse him and read a little. As I nursed my son I could still see Taylor and her friend running around. It wasn't unusual for Taylor to occasionally slip out of my view for a few minutes. The house was quiet and it seemed like I hadn't seen Taylor come back into my view for a little while. That was the moment I remember thinking something wasn't right.

I felt a little uneasy not being able to see Taylor. I slowly sat forward to give myself a new angle to see the other side of the yard through the window. It was in that exact moment I heard my neighbor screaming for me to come quick. As I ran to the front door my neighbor was opening it and telling me Taylor had been bitten by Dexter (the other neighbors grate dane I talked about earlier). I remember my neighbor grabbing my son from my arms as I raced to put my boots on.  I remember thinking to myself,  "please God let it be her arm, her hand, her leg, anything BUT her face or worse her throat." It's amazing how just a few seconds can seem like hours and you have all the time in the world to think the most absurd thoughts. I also thought in those few seconds while I pleaded with God, that maybe she didn't get bit at all. Maybe my neighbor was frightened and over reacted. Maybe she just fell and scraped her knee. I wanted so badly for those words "Dexter bit Taylor" to be untrue, that when I finally saw her I couldn't believe what my eyes were looking at.  

As I struggled getting my boots on Dexter's owner was quickly walking up the front porch. I had the the front door open and half of my body outside when I gazed upon my tiny, sweet, blonde haired Taylor cradled in Dexter's owners arms. Taylor didn't make a sound.  She was breathing heavily and as I looked up at Dexter's owner I could see she was covered in blood. More blood than could possibly come from a scraped knee. My heart sank and as I reached for Taylor she rolled over exposing her blood soaked face to me. Her eyes were darting around, not connecting with anything, and she was mumbling incoherently. I looked into Dexter's owners terrified eyes and exclaimed, "Dexter bit her?!" She was shaking badly and I'm not sure if she was shaking from fear, shock, or simply because Taylor was shaking.  She looked at me and told me, "Dexter just knocked Taylor over and she must have hit her head on the ground." I knew deep down that couldn't possibly be what happened, but my mind and body went into survival mode. I needed help for my daughter and I needed it now.  

I cradled Taylor in my arms as my neighbor dialed 911. My neighbor had gone outside to make the phone call and I never actually heard what she said but, it has been recorded in the 911 logs that she did in fact state the dog had bit Taylor. I called my husband who was on base at work that evening and luckily one of our other neighbors was home from work that night. He had ran across the street when he heard the dog growl and followed me back inside the house after I had Taylor in my arms. He had paper towels and was applying pressure to the wound on Taylor's forehead while he talked to my husband about what had happened. He explained to my husband that Taylor was hurt very badly and he needed to leave work immediately and meet us in the emergency room.The only time I panicked was in those moments we were on the phone with my husband. The kids had fallen and had bumps and bruises before and I always handled everything on my own, but for whatever reason that night hearing someone else say this is bad and you need to come home, sent shivers down my spin. As soon as I hung up the phone with my husband I slowly walked over to the couch so I could sit down and just hold Taylor while we waited for the ambulance to arrive. It could not have been more than 15 minutes while we waited, but during those 15 minutes Taylor did not say one word. Her eyes were still darting around the room and she was very quietly moaning and mumbling. In those 15 agonizing minutes I thought my overwhelmingly intelligent and gifted daughter had brain damage and would lose her right eye.
Taylor in the ambulance.

The dog had bitten her just to the outside and above her right eye. As it bit down it pulled her skin from her forehead down exposing her skull and covering her eye. I could see part of her eye was still there, however, I wasn't sure how much was still there. The paramedics arrived and removed our makeshift paper towel bandages to see how badly her face was damaged. They didn't say much to me other than ask if she lost consciousness, which at the time, I had no idea. I told them I was not outside with her when this happened, so I wasn't sure what exactly happened. The police had arrived and were standing in the doorway listening to what I was saying. The paramedics scooped Taylor out of my arms and carefully carried her to the ambulance. I quickly made arrangements with Taylor's friends parents to watch my other daughter while I took my son with me to the hospital. The ambulance driver hooked my sons car seat in as I climbed into the back of the ambulance. Taylor was trembling as I reached out for her hand and that was the first time since I saw her that she spoke. She said she was scared and didn't want the IV needle to poke her. The paramedics had wrapped her head with thick gauze covering her forehead and her right eye. They were the nicest men and gave her a little pink and purple lion for her to cuddle, together they decided to name her lion Skittles.

After being cleaned up, before surgery.

The ride to the emergency room only took about 5 minutes because we lived in such a small town.  Once we got to the ER they began to unwrap Taylor's bandages and clean up her wound. They gave her pain meds and she was finally speaking again. Although she was still having trouble with putting together full sentences, at least she was talking. The doctors took her to have a CT scan of her head to rule out any swelling and bleeding in her brain. It was determined that she had a skull fracture and she needed to be air lifted in a flight for life helicopter to a bigger city with a trauma one hospital. While Taylor was having her CT scan done my husband had finally arrived in the emergency room, and we decided it would be best for our younger children if I gathered our things and drove the 2 hours away to the bigger city and hospital. My husband would ride with Taylor in the helicopter. The flight for life paramedics arrived and gave Taylor a small sedative because I had told them she gets motion sick. They assured me Taylor would be alright and this was the best decision of her. The medics strapped Taylor to their bed that would fit inside the helicopter and I followed them out holding Taylor's hand.  I gave her a kiss and told her how much I love her as they took her to the helipad. It was heart wrenching watching that helicopter take off with my daughter in serious condition. I felt helpless and afraid. I cried in the car clenching my son while we watched my husband and daughter fly off into the distance.

Being bandaged for the helicopter ride.

Getting in the helicopter.

I quickly returned home to gather our younger daughter, our overnight bags, and some comfort items for Taylor. As I was getting ready to load up the car and leave for my two hour drive my husband called to let me know that they had arrived at the hospital and the surgeons were already waiting for them to arrive. I had about five minutes to talk to Taylor on the phone before they wheeled her into the operating room to close her wound. It was around 10:00pm at this point and since I wasn't able to be there for her surgery, and they were not sure how long her surgery would take, we decided it would be best if I stayed home that night and drove the two hours the next morning. It was nerve wracking waiting for the phone call that Taylor was out of surgery and she was alright. Surgery lasted a little over two hours and it was about another 45 minutes after that before I was able to talk to her again. Taylor was in good spirits and even though I could not be there, I am forever grateful my husband was. To this day I still feel guilty that I was not there for Taylor before and after her surgery, even though she says she was happy to at least have her daddy there.

After surgery.

Taylor ended up with close to a hundred stitches inside and out of her wound to close the gap. We are lucky that we had the surgeons we had and they did not have to use a skin graph to close her wound. Her wound was about an inch wide and ran from the top of her forehead down and across her eyebrow.  Her eye was completely intact despite the dogs tooth puncturing her skin about a 1/3 of an inch from her eye socket. The skull fracture occurred when Taylor's skull forcefully hit the street from the dog lunging so hard and fast at her. She had a serious concussion that had lasting effects for about a month after the attack. She had trouble with her extensive vocabulary, forgetting what she was talking about in the middle of a sentence, nausea, sensitivity to light, and dizzy spells. We started Taylor in sand box therapy about a week after the attack and she was diagnosed as having severe shock, PTSD, and a severe anxiety disorder. Because Taylor immediately went into shock when the dog lunged at her, to this day she does not remember what exactly happened. The only thing Taylor remembers is petting the dog and then "waking up in the ambulance", even though she never lost consciousness.

We learned from witnesses about 2 days after the attack that it was in fact a dog bite and she did not simply fall over. The legal aftermath of the attack has been a nightmare and we are still, 9 months later, in the midst of a legal battle. Absolutely nothing happened to the dog because the owners lied about what had happened and to this day, still will not admit there is even a possibility their dog bit our daughter. Taylor is doing wonderful. Her wound is completely healed and her scar is fading more and more everyday. My husband's enlistment came up with the Air Force and we moved home to Colorado to be with our family and friends. Taylor has never been happier and she is thriving in our new home. We are truly blessed and lucky that our sweet Taylor is doing so well. When I think back to that day, this attack could have been so much worse. It was terrifying and horrible but, I'm grateful the dog didn't get her eye or worse rip into her throat. There is beauty in the aftermath of trauma and I find that beauty in my intelligent, hilarious, loving, gorgeous daughter Taylor. She is the definition of strength and courage and I am forever thankful for her life.

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