As her parents watched in horror, the family dog attacked 4-year-old Aaliyah Burrell, pinning her to the ground and tearing at her face. The April evening had started peacefully, with the Burrell children asking to play outside after dinner. But in an instant, everything changed. The children’s romp with their dog turned vicious. Alerted by her screams, Aaliyah’s parents scooped her up and headed for NorthBay Medical Center. Her ear was hanging away from her face and she had facial lacerations.
“We didn’t even think to call an ambulance,” says Kristin Burrell, of the rush to care for her daughter. “We wrapped her in a towel, piled into the car and, of course, hit every stop light.”
Once they reached the Emergency Department, all lights were green and Aaliyah’s care began immediately. “There was no wait at all,” says Burrell.
“As soon as we entered the Emergency Department a nurse took her for an exam and things began to happen.”
Fortunately, the Burrells could prove their dog was up-to-date on his rabies vaccinations. Unfortunately, the severity of her wounds meant Aaliyah would need immediate transfer to Oakland Children’s Hospital.
“The care we received was amazing,” Burrell remembers. “Within 10 minutes an ambulance arrived to take us to Oakland. I rode with her, and when we got to Children’s Hospital a plastic surgeon was waiting to take care of her.” Because she had eaten dinner, Aaliyah’s facial surgery took place the next morning. With wounds closed, the family was sent home for their child’s recovery.
Aaliyah has made a full recovery, but may need additional facial plastic surgery next year. Her parents are just grateful for the quick action taken by the NorthBay Medical Center ER staff.
How to Prevent a Dog Bite
Each year approximately 4 million Americans are bitten by dogs, with about 800,000 seeking medical treatment. Although most dog bite attacks are not provoked, there are several measures that adults and children can take to decrease the possibility of being bitten. Here are some tips to help you avoid a dog bite:
- Remain calm when you feel threatened by a dog.
- Never approach an unfamiliar dog.
- Never run from a dog or scream in the presence of a dog.
- Stand still and avoid eye contact if approached by a dog.
- If knocked down, freeze in place.
- Children should never play with a dog without an adult present.
- Do not disturb a dog that is eating, sleeping or caring for puppies.
- Do not pet a dog without letting it first sniff you.
What to Do When A Dog Attacks
Almost 90 percent of the animal bites seen in emergency departments are from dogs and most occur among children ages 5 to 9.
In addition to physical damage, two deadly viruses can be passed by dogs: rabies and tetanus. That’s why it is important to be able to identify and find the dog that has bitten you.
Observation by a veterinarian is appropriate when the vaccination status of the animal is unknown. If the animal cannot be quarantined for 10 days, the dog bite victim should receive rabies immunization.
Most dog bites do require medical attention, because in addition to cleaning the wound, the patient may need antibiotics, a tetanus shot, and/or treatment to prevent rabies.
Seek immediate medical care for multiple or serious bites, especially in younger children and bites that involve the child’s head and neck.
After a dog bites, stop any bleeding by putting direct pressure on the wound. Then clean it extensively, flushing it with saline or water to remove as much bacteria as possible. Unless on the face or severe, most bites are not sutured, but left open to heal from the inside out.