Today is February 16. Today is the day. I don’t think of it every year, the day usually passes without a thought, but today I have remembered. Seven years ago today, my 4 1/2-year-old niece was holding a puppy, singing it a song, when she was suddenly attacked by two Rottweilers. I was at work, just finishing up tutorials when I was paged to the office for a phone call. My sister-in-law told me that Ashlynn had been bitten by her dog and they were in the emergency room. Her voice was calm, and I imagined she had been bitten by a dog, needed a couple of stitches, and would go home later that night.
When I walked into the emergency room and met my sister-in-law, saw her face, and heard her words, I knew then that it wasn’t just a bite. The emergency room personnel let me go back and I entered and saw the doctors, the nurses, and my brother all around her bed. Steve, her dad, was holding her hand. Then someone moved back and I saw Ashlynn with her skinny little naked body laying on the table. She was alert. She turned her head and the first words to me were, “I’ve been dog bit.”
The Lord was in that room. I could feel him everywhere. Although the situation was very serious, the bleeding had stopped, Ashlynn was extremely calm, and a peace was upon me that I cannot explain. The nurses started pointing out the wounds to me, only when they rolled her to her side and I saw very deep bites on her lower back with tissue protruding that I felt my stomach go queasy. They were preparing her to be transported to Amarillo for surgery. The room was quiet. Suddenly a doctor grabbed my hand forcing into Ashlynn’s and urged me to talk to her and tell her she was going to be okay.
I began to get a little panicky realizing the seriousness of it all, knowing that my mother needed to be there. And as much as I should have stayed there with my niece and my brother, I needed to get out of there. So I left. I went to try to find my mom. This was before she carried a cell phone. She worked for a home health agency. I knew about 3 of her clients and where they lived, so I got in my car and drove by all their houses looking for her car. I couldn’t find her. I called my friend, asking her to pray, I called my aunt, my grannie, everyone I knew, pleading them to begin to pray. Someone found my mom and by the time I returned to the hospital, she was there and they were loading into the ambulance.
They gave Ashlynn morphine and she never slept. It had an adverse reaction and was as if she was coming out of her skin, reaching for things that weren’t there, saying bizarre hallucinating statements. Then she went into surgery. After a while, the doctor came into the waiting room and informed us that he had sewn up her front, and when he rolled her over to sew up her back, the bites were much deeper than surface level, so they needed to open her up in the front to clean and stitch the interior wounds. The dogs had nearly bitten through her. She had cuts on her intestines, kidneys, stomach, and liver. Stitching the intestines was time consuming because the doctors had to literally pull them out and unwind them to search each and every inch for wounds.
Four hours later the surgery was over and she was placed in ICU. By this time, the word had reached all four corners of our small town. When she awoke she was greeted with visitors, flowers, cards, phone calls, stuffed animals, more than anything I’ve ever seen. The nurses began to turn the visitors away. During the next 10 days of recovery, our family was showered with love. Prayer chains were active, a fund and donations were given, strangers who saw it on the news or read about it in the paper came to visit, sent her cards, gave her toys. People came daily from surrounding churches to pray for her without fail. Mankind is truly generous and good.
She’s had two other surgeries since to undo scar tissue that formed adhesions and caused unbelievable pain in her intestines.
I hate to think about what she endured. I remember her words that day in the hospital, “I need a drink. I got dirt in my mouth.” And I can’t help but picture her being dragged around the backyard by those dogs whose animal instincts were to kill.
“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good.” Genesis 5o:20
The greatest act of love I’ve ever witnessed came during that time. One stranger who came to pray told me he was praying for healing of the memories. I had never heard that expression before. So much of our focus was on her body, and not her mind. Our God is so good. That prayer was answered and although she has scars to remind her, Ashlynn has no fear of dogs to this day.
Today she’s an outstanding eleven year old girl. I talked to her on the phone a while ago. She was going to jazz class and then to church, two things she loves. She was talking with her mouth full and I scolded her. She made all A’s and B’s on her report card. I think she deserves a little money for that.
I couldn’t imagine my life without her. She is a little bundle of energy, a friend to all, a hater of broth, an amazing artist, a survivor for sure.
And a testimony to our God, who is with us in the valley of the shadow of death, who brings us through trials, who saves our souls, and heals our wounds, and our memories.
To God be the glory.