Six-year-old Meagan Garrow bounded home from her first day of 2nd grade last week, buzzing with the normal excitement of a little girl looking at a new school year.
But in the quieter moments before bed that night, Meagan confessed to her mom that a group of friends pushed her away when she tried to hug them on the playground. They didn’t recognize the face that plastic surgeons had crafted for Meagan after a pit bull bit off her nose, upper lip and eyelid on July 12.
“That was really heartbreaking. I didn’t cry, but I wanted to,” said Genevieve Riedel, Meagan’s mom.
Such is life now for Meagan and her family. Meagan is as abundantly friendly, energetic and playful as ever, but she also shows signs of anger and introspection about her attack. Riedel has watched her daughter compare photos taken before the accident with the face now starring back in the mirror. Meagan is more prone to tantrums and forgetting manners, Riedel said.
Mostly, though, she’s maintained a good attitude.
“If she was horrible and down in the dumps, we all would be, too,” said Lance Garrow, Meagan’s dad. “That little girl right there is my hero.”
Meagan was attacked by a neighbor’s pit bull that ran out of its house and bit her as she left through the front gate of a friend’s house on the same street where Meagan’s family lives.
The dog, which was euthanized, ripped 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.
Surgeons took part of her lower lip to reconstruct her upper lip and scraped cartilage from behind her ear to build her a new nostril. An artificial tear duct is like a blue thread in Meagan’s eye, which is outlined by a giant red scar. Riedel rubs cocoa butter on Meagan’s face twice a day, hoping to minimize the scarring that may require more plastic surgery when Meagan is a teenager.
Her twisted, healing skin often itches, and she wakes up in the night with what her mom calls “phantom pains” from the nerve damage. All remaining stitches are inside her mouth, making it sometimes painful to eat acidic food.
“It hurts to open my mouth really wide and to eat food with like sauces and stuff,” Meagan said.
Meagan’s twin brother, Brendan, was right behind her and watched the dog maul his sister.
Now, “I just like the dogs I know,” Brendan said Friday.
Brendan and Meagan see a counselor regularly, occasionally joined by their older brothers Logan, 9, and Kieran, 8.
Riedel has continued to work at her job at Progressive Insurance as much as possible between Meagan’s appointments. Before Meagan was attacked, Riedel worked ample overtime to support her four children. Right after the attack, coworkers donated 66 hours of personal time to Riedel.
An account for donations to the family, set up by a Fort Carson soldier just before he was deployed to Afghanistan, has more than $3,000 in it, money that will help supplement insurance once the flood of medical bills for Meagan’s seven surgeries starts pouring in.
Riedel reads to Meagan all of the well-wishes left on the website she keeps to update extended family and strangers on her progress.
“She knows she is loved,” Riedel said.
Moving forward, Riedel hopes to spin Meagan’s positive outlook on her situation to good use, perhaps one day visiting other children with scars from accidents and burns.
“I just really feel she should be able to do something to help others,” Riedel said.
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.