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Nov 13, 2009

My poor toddler, bitten by a dog on the nose

These were for sure the most difficult 6 hours in my life. I thought taking care of a sick 6-week old baby when sick with the flu myself was hard, or that working 80-hour weeks was hard. But this was before last week's accident happened.

It had all started so well. We were visiting friends in their cabin in the Shasta area: awesome place, perfect weather, great company. This promised to be a relaxing and fun weekend, and our friends were treating us like kings. Daniel had quickly become friends with the dog (he *used to* love dogs). He had fed him and played with him all morning. It was so cute when Daniel started comparing his body to the dog's.
2 ears: check. 2 eyes: check. 4 legs: wait, I only have 2 legs. Tail: why don't I have a tail coming out of my back? So cute.

But then, it happened. Out of nowhere, the dog, who had been lying, stood up and bit Daniel on the nose. I honestly can't remember exactly what happened, it's all so blurry in my mind. I just remember feeling so shocked, scared, I mean, really scared, and incredulous at the same time that I got paralyzed and couldn't move.

With the most fortunate turn of events, the dog stopped biting after a few seconds (which felt like eternity though), and we found that the damage was not life-threatening. Daniel was bleeding a lot from his scars on the nose and from the mouth (he got bitten inside the mouth too). But he was breathing well and hadn't lost any tissue.

As we raced to the ER (about 45 minutes away), Daniel actually recovered pretty quickly. He stopped bleeding quite quickly and after 10 minutes or so of crying, he was even able to play iPhone games all the way to the hospital. He was even quite cheerful when we came to the hospital (this changed quickly as soon as he saw the nurse though).

Meanwhile, my head was racing. What had just happened? Why couldn't I prevent this? Why didn't I do anything to stop the dog sooner? And what if the dog had hit the eyes... the mouth... the throat? The thought of all these scenarios was so scary. These thoughts continued to haunt me several days after the accident, and I still get scared just thinking about it.

I can't imagine how hard this must be for Daniel to process. He loved dogs so much and had no reason to believe that something like this was even possible. Add to the surprise the scare of being attacked on the face by an animal bigger than him, and the pain of the bite. It's surprising he is showing so little impact of this (except for waking up a few times with nightmares the first night and mentioning the dog once or twice a day now ... that's it)

Back to the physical damage, the doctor was able to quickly apply stitches to the major wounds. Fortunately, we expect little to no long-lasting scar on Daniel's face.

The operation itself was tough to witness for me, though. While Daniel was quite happy as long as we were waiting (iPhone games saved the day), he panicked every time a nurse brought something to the room. This was a roller-coaster for about 30 minutes before the doctor was finally read. I felt so bad for him to have to go through the stress and calming down over and over again.
As the nurses sedated him before doing the stitches, I couldn't stand the sight of a motionless and wounded Daniel. This was so hard. And then, the 30 minutes after he woke up were terrible too. Daniel was so grumpy, tired, sick, thirsty and kept crying he was cold (an expected side-effect). I had just taught him to proactively tell me when he was cold at home, to make sure he was dressed properly. He was definitely using his words in the right context. However, this time, there was nothing I could do to take away the chills. His body had to go through them as part of the process, and I could only hold him close in my arms, talk to him and wait. I felt so helpless.

Fortunately, the story ended well. Daniel is recovering very quickly, and he has had very side-effects of the sedation if at all. 24 hours after our ER visit, he was already dancing, laughing and almost his normal self. He is still talking about the dog that bit him, and it will take time to reacquaint him with dogs. But this accident should soon be something of the past, and we will hopefully forget about all the bad memories.
As for our friends, they are not so lucky. They lost their dog in the process and feel really bad about what happened.

We promised ourselves to do a redo of the weekend in the cabin. Same location, same crew (except the dog), same great food... and hopefully a lot less drama.

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