July 15, 2010
Six-year-old Meagan Garrow told her mom she didn’t want to see her face — severely damaged Monday when a pit bull attacked her — until she was 10.
But the girl took a peek at that swollen, stitched face through gaps of towels her mom, Genevieve Riedel, had put over the bathroom mirror at Memorial Hospital.
“I’m a monster, mommy,” Meagan said. “I look creepy.”
Coming to terms with her face is one of several challenges Meagan faces in the coming weeks.
Her life and appearance changed dramatically Monday afternoon when a neighbor’s pit bull ran out of its house and bit Meagan as she came through the front gate of her friend’s house on Dogwood Drive, where Meagan’s family also lives.
Meagan’s twin brother, Brendan, was right behind her and watched the dog maul his sister, Riedel said. Brendan, now timid around dogs other than the family’s two pets, has asked his parents why he couldn’t have stopped it.
“It was very quick. No one could have stopped it,” Riedel said Thursday.
The dog, which was euthanized, tore through Meagan’s cheeks, exposing her teeth, bit off one of her nostrils and tore off so much flesh around one of her eyes that Riedel feared her daughter would lose the eye. After a four-hour surgery and hundreds of stitches, the outlook is more promising.
“She’s doing much better than we thought she would,” Riedel said. “It is amazing how her face was put back together and she looks like a little girl again.”
Riedel did not know a pit bull lived down the road and had never spoken to the dog’s owner.
Riedel said she harbors no ill will for the breed, but, had she known, she might have walked her children down the road instead of watching them from their front yard.
“There’s that stigma” she said. “There’s that chance.”
The dog’s owner, Rachel Goran, was charged with misdemeanor ownership of a dangerous dog. Riedel said she has no unkind words for Goran, though she would not discuss whether the family plans legal action.
Goran stopped by Riedel’s house Wednesday when Riedel was at the hospital, but Meagan’s father, Lance Garrow, was not ready to talk, Riedel said.
Thursday, Meagan overcame a big hurdle when she ate pancakes and eggs for breakfast. After the attack, there was concern she would be stuck on a liquid diet for some time.
The high-spirited little girl has not cried since the attack and has only complained of her eye itching after surgery, Riedel said.
“She’s coming to terms with the fact that her face may be different, and she’ll have to deal with that socially,” Riedel said.
While her mother was being interviewed Thursday, Meagan was in the children’s ward helping staff put on an ice cream social.
The family, which includes Meagan’s two older brothers Kieran, 8, and Logan, 9, has two dogs. When she was a toddler, Meagan picked out their Rhodesian ridgeback, a big red dog that looks like Clifford, Riedel said.
Riedel said Meagan has been very interested in dogs since the attack, asking how her dogs are, intently watching cartoon dogs on television and asking if the dog that attacked her will hurt her again.
Meagan will require at least two more surgeries on her nose and upper lip. Riedel also plans to put her twins in counseling together and might seek counseling herself. But other than a lack of sleep over the past three days, Riedel said she hasn’t broken down.
“I don’t know if I’m still in shock or if I’m handling it as well as I and my friends and family think I am,” Riedel said.
“I’ve seen people come out of much worse. I’m very hopeful of that.”
FUND FOR MEDICAL BILLS
The Meagan Garrow Fund, to help the family with medical bills, is set up at Wells Fargo. To donate, use account # 7808251453 at any Wells Fargo branch.
Click here to see Meagan's hospital page.