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Girl, 11, recovering following lip surgery after dog bite

La Crosse parents will tell you that when their child hurts, they hurt. We can only imagine the pain felt by the parents of a Florida girl who is recovering from reconstructive surgery to her upper lip and nose after a vicious dog attack.

The girl, 11, was sleeping over at a friend's house when she fell off of the couch there in her sleep. She woke up to find her friend's family's Jack Russell terrier-English bulldog standing over her, growling.

"I just laid there, and I closed my eyes, hoping the dog would just go away," she told a newspaper reporter.

Unfortunately, the dog attacked, ripping off 75 percent of her upper lip and part of her nose.

Doctors reattached the piece of torn-off skin, which had been retrieved by the owner of the dog. But the blood vessels in the skin had been damaged and the section of skin failed.

"We had to remove the dead tissue," a plastic surgeon said.

He said the girl's teeth and gums were then exposed by the gaping wound to her face. He and another surgeon decided to then close the hole with tissue taken from the girl's lower lip.

The procedure is referred to as "a lip switch," the doctor said in describing the surgery that takes a section of the lower lip, flips it and then attaches it to the upper lip. The big advantages to the procedure are that it uses the girl's own lips, retaining her color and skin texture.

The doctor said using that local tissue gives the girl a greater hope of having "normal anatomical function and normal appearance."

A family friend told a newspaper that even before that second surgery, the girl's medical bills had topped $70,000.

In many similar cases, the dog's owner can be held financially responsible for those bills.

Source: ABC News, "Florida Girl's Lip Reconstructed After Dog Bite," July 9, 2012

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