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6-year-old attacked by pit bull in April undergoes hyperbaric treatment for injuries

July 09, 2011|By MAEGAN CLEARWOOD | maegan.clearwood@herald-mail.com
  • 6-year-old Brooke Boyd shows the scars from a pit bull attack that happened April 16.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

The massive, clear tube into which 6-year-old Brooke Boyd and her mother, Melissa Boyd, were slowly wheeled looked like something out of a science-fiction movie or, as Brooke described it, "a spaceship."

Brooke spent 24 two-hour sessions in that hyperbaric chamber since April 16, when a neighbor's pit bull detached half of her nose.

On the day of the accident, Brooke and her brother, 8-year-old Tyler Boyd, went to visit their friend next door. Brooke said she knocked on the door and was told she could come in. She opened the door just a crack and the dog attacked.

Brooke's father, Andy Boyd, was laying mulch in the front yard when he heard screams coming from next door.

"I saw her face with her nose half missing. I couldn't dial 911 fast enough," he said. "Frightened as she was, she kept her calm about her."

After initial surgeries to save her nose were unsuccessful, Brooke was referred to Dr. Thomas Gilbert, medical director for the Center for Wound Care and Hyperbaric Medicine at Meritus Medical Center.

Gilbert said hyperbaric treatment allows more oxygen into the patient's blood stream, and that supports blood-vessel growth.

The Boyds have been traveling from Fairfield, Pa., to Meritus almost every day since Brooke began treatment. Gilbert said Brooke was the youngest patient he has treated with hyperbaric therapy.

"It was very serious," he said. "She was a sweetheart, an excellent patient."

At first, Brooke said the sessions were "scary." After she was told that taking her teddy bear in the chamber would be a fire hazard, her father went in with her.

"It's similar to snorkeling," Andy Boyd said. "You have to keep popping your ears because they keep increasing the pressure. Even though you can see out, being claustrophobic, it was not a very comfortable experience. All in all, after the third time the pressure changed, it was kind of relaxing, other than having a fidgety girl all over my legs."

Brooke's mother started her shifts in the chamber after Andy Boyd returned to work. Brooke and her mother spent most of the sessions watching movies and TV, especially "SpongeBob SquarePants," Brooke's favorite.

Brooke's nurse, Peggy Beltran, was one of the many friends she made during her hospital visits. Beltran came to all but one treatment, including weekends and her days off.

"It was just that she was so afraid, and she got used to me being there," Beltran said. "I knew it was important, so I didn't want her to miss any appointments."

"The people here have gone out of their way to make sure she's as comfortable as possible," Andy Boyd said.

Although Brooke, who loves cheerleading, drawing, and playing Wii, missed her friends from school, her classmates and teachers made sure her house was filled with cards and flowers.

"I was sad I was going to miss school, and I was sad that I got bit," she said. "My friends thought it would be scary."

Brooke was able to return for the last month of her kindergarten year at Fairfield Elementary School, Andy Boyd said.

"When the physicians thought she was ready to go back to school, she was as apprehensive as could be. She didn't want her friends to see her, didn't want people to worry about her," he said. "The whole community gave her a warm welcome, and from then on you couldn't keep her home. Her courage has been awesome."

Aside from being somewhat apprehensive about pit bulls, Brooke said she isn't afraid of dogs. In fact, she was saddened to hear that the pit bull that attacked her was put to sleep after the incident.    

"I don't like dogs dying," she said.

Although the hyperbaric therapy was a success, the family is looking into cosmetic plastic surgery to heal Brooke's nose completely. Gilbert said it might take eight surgeries, and Brooke will need at least 10 more extensive hyperbaric sessions.

Brooke wasn't nervous about the prospect of her surgery.

"I'm happy," Brooke said. "I miss these people."

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