Florida Girl's Lip Reconstructed After Dog Bite

Jacklyn Tucker, 11, was attacked by a friend's dog during a sleepover.

ByABC News
July 9, 2012, 11:28 AM

July 9, 2012— -- A Florida girl is recovering from surgery to reconstruct her upper lip and nose after being attacked by a friend's dog during a sleepover.

Jacklyn Tucker, 11, said she fell off the couch in her sleep. When she looked up, she saw the family dog, Tanker, growling at her.

"I just laid there, and I closed my eyes, hoping the dog would just go away," Tucker said, according to the Palm Beach Post.

Instead, the Jack Russell terrier-English bulldog cross lunged at Tucker's face, tearing off three-quarters of her upper lip and part of her nose.

Doctors at St. Mary's Medical Center in West Palm Beach tried to reattach the piece of severed skin, which was picked up by the dog's owner and given to paramedics. But because of blood vessel damage, the patch of skin quickly turned grey and died.

"We had to remove the dead tissue," said Dr. Drew Schnitt, a plastic and craniofacial surgeon at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital in Hollywood, Fla., where Tucker was transferred for special surgery. "At that point, we were basically looking at teeth and gums."

Schnitt and fellow plastic surgeon Dr. Christopher Brooks decided the best way to repair the gaping wound was to borrow tissue from Tucker's bottom lip.

"It's called a lip switch," said Schnitt, describing the procedure to take a wedge from the lower lip, flip it upside down and insert it into the upper lip.

The lip switch allowed Schnitt and Brooks to take advantage of Tucker's lip color and texture.

"That's the beauty of using that local tissue," said Schnitt. "It gives a much better chance of normal anatomical function and normal appearance."

Schnitt then used skin from Tucker's chin to reconstruct part of her nose damaged by the bite.

"I think it was very successful," he said.

Tucker, who lives with her father in Royal Palm Beach, was released from the hospital Saturday. But her mouth is currently sewn shut because the wedge of skin used to reconstruct her upper lip is still connected to blood vessels in her lower lip, Schnitt said.

"In two to three weeks, new blood vessels will grow into the tissue," he said. "Then she'll come back in for a separation procedure."

In the meantime, Tucker's family and friends are rallying to raise money to offset her mounting medical costs.

"Before the second round of surgery, the bill was already over $70,000," said Jennifer Calderon, a family friend helping to organize a July 26 fundraiser. "Her dad had to leave his job to take care of her."

Tanker the dog was surrendered to Animal Care and Control, according to local reports. He will likely be euthanized.

Despite her injuries, Tucker has no hard feelings toward the dog's owners.

"She doesn't want anybody to be mad at her friend," said Calderon. "This was the dog's fault."