On a typical summer day at the Georgetown, Ohio fire department, Emergency Medical Technician Nickie responded to a call reporting a dog bite injury. Although the incident took place in her neighborhood, she didn’t think much about it until she arrived on the scene to find that the injured child was her 12-year old son, Cooper. “It looked like half of his face was gone,” she said later. She learned that the attack occurred when an unrestrained dog crawled under a fence where Cooper was playing with friends.
The boy was airlifted to the nearby children’s hospital, where he received more than 200 stitches to his face and neck, and another 40 to his back. The process took six hours, after which they were sent home.
At a follow-up visit two weeks later, Nickie was told Cooper didn’t need plastic surgery for another year or two. When she disagreed, a plastic surgeon was consulted. She learned that the specialist’s treatment wouldn’t be covered by insurance, meaning the family would have to pay all of the cost to improve Cooper’s appearance. Nickie recalled the devastating news, saying “I felt like I didn’t protect him when he was injured; now I couldn’t fix him.”
To help her cope, Nickie began sharing their story on Facebook. Someone suggested they reach out to Shriners Hospitals for Children—Cincinnati. At first she was puzzled; she only knew the hospital for its world-class pediatric burn care. She soon learned that Cincinnati Shriners Hospital is also a destination for plastic and reconstructive surgery, and treats children regardless of a family’s ability to pay. Nickie made a call on a Tuesday. Minutes later, she and Cooper had an appointment for the following Friday.
At the appointment, they met plastic surgeon Scott Rapp, M.D., FACS, who agreed with Nickie’s assessment that Cooper needed reconstructive surgery. He also suggested it be followed by laser treatments. Using lasers for scar reduction is a relatively new procedure; the reconstructive surgeons at Shriners’ specialty hospitals have perfected its use to improve the appearance of the scars from burns as well as many other injuries.
“Dr. Rapp was so reassuring,” Nickie recalled of their visit. “He quashed all our fears and spent a lot of time talking with Cooper to make sure he felt comfortable.”
After Cooper’s outstanding outcome, Nickie was determined to spread the word about Cincinnati Shriners Hospital, using social media to reach out to mothers in similar situations, connecting at least two families to its skilled, family-centered care. “I don’t want another parent to ever have to feel like I did,” she said.