Surgeon Talks About Replacing Girl's Scalp Lost In Dog Attack

By Frances Kuo

(LOUISVILLE, May 13th, 2004, 6:30 p.m.) -- For the first time, the surgeon who operated on a 4-year-old LaRue County girl mauled by her family's Pit Bull is talking about the surgery. He described the efforts to save her life and her long road ahead to recovery. WAVE 3's Frances Kuo reports.

Emily Stinnett has been at Kosair Children's Hospital for more than two weeks, and thankfully her condition is improving. She has been moved out of intensive care, and her condition has been upgraded from critical to stable -- a big improvement from the day she first arrived.

Dr. Mark Chariker says in his 20 years experience as a surgeon, he's never had a phone call like the one he received April 26, the night Emily Stinnett was attacked. "I was called in the evening of the injury, about 9 o'clock or so."

The caller told Dr. Chariker that a family dog had bitten off the scalp of a 4-year-old girl. Chariker immediately requested that police retrieve the piece of scalp. Police, who had already shot and killed the dog, searched the yard before finally finding it in the dog's stomach. Without the scalp, Dr. Chariker knew Emily would bleed to death.

Emily's scalp arrived at Kosair Children's Hospital in four pieces, but Dr. Chariker and other surgeons were only able to reattach two pieces.

Dr. Chariker spent a long, painstaking night. "At about midnight the night of the injury, until 6 a.m. I spent cleansing the child's head, and replanting the two components of the scalp."

Chariker also had to use leeches on Emily's scalp, which is still a common practice when doctors need to get blood flowing again. Emily will still need to undergo several more surgeries to cover other parts of her skull. The real challenge now will be getting her back to normal.

"She is aware that she was attacked by the dog," Chariker says. "She hasn't seen her injury to date, so she's not fully aware and hasn't had to adjust to that."

Overall, Chariker says Emily's prognosis is good. "She's responding quite well, and is in good spirits. "Intrinsically, she's a strong child, and will get through this."

Dr. Chariker hopes Emily will leave the hospital in three or four weeks. He worries that she will suffer from post-traumatic disorder, a common effect from the kind of terrifying ordeal Emily has experienced.

A fund has been set up to help the family with medical and other expenses. You can send donations to the Emily Stinnett Fund, Bank of Buffalo, P.O. Box 39, Buffalo, Ky. 42716.

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Online Reporter: Frances Kuo

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