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Let sleeping dogs lie: Surgery for dog bite saves patient's nose – Tallahassee Democrat

Anyone who has ever known the unconditional love of a pet knows every pet has its own personality and set of emotions. For example, dog owners can see happiness in their pets’ eyes – and tails! Some dogs give off clues that say, “Leave me alone right now,” while others may convey, “I’m sleepy, don’t touch me.”
On Aug. 3, 2020, around 11:15 pm, it was the second clue 25-year-old Marni Roberts wished she had recognized in her own dog, Nash, when she approached him to give him a goodnight kiss.
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Marni was settling in for the night when she walked into her pitch-black bedroom and noticed her 70-pound lab mix lying at the foot of the bed. This was nothing out of the ordinary. Nash, 6 years old, always goes to sleep on the bed before Marni. As she kissed the dog goodnight, he was suddenly startled, snapped at her and bit her nose.
“It all happened so fast,” said Marni. “I must have spooked him awake from a deep sleep. He would never intentionally hurt me.”
Nash immediately let go and rushed to comfort Marni, crying by her side as she looked down at the pool of blood in her hands. The bite happened so quickly that Marni was not aware of how seriously she had been hurt.
She ran into the living room where her boyfriend, Shea, was still awake and screamed, “Nash bit me. I think he broke my nose!” Marni had never experienced a bloody nose, much less a broken nose, and was unsure what had happened. She described the pain as being sharp, with blood flowing profusely.
“I imagined this is what it would feel like to be a boxer in the ring getting punched in the nose,” Marni said.
Marni was losing blood so quickly she became lightheaded. The pain was excruciating, but it was not until she saw her face in the bathroom mirror that she realized her nose had been torn to pieces. She described it as “having one big nostril.”
Shea rushed Marni to a local hospital’s free-standing emergency room in Southwood, which was only a short distance from their home. Due to COVID-19 visitor restrictions, Shea was unable to enter the facility with Marni. She waited in the ER in agony, scared and alone. Sitting by herself, panic set in and the tears started to fall.
Following a 30-minute wait, an examination and a consult from the attending physician, Marni was told she needed a trauma specialist. They advised her to go to Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare’s Bixler Trauma & Emergency Center for a higher level of treatment.
Credentialed as the only Level II Trauma Center in the Big Bend region, TMH has emergency center physicians board-certified in emergency medicine and trauma trained to assist patients like Marni.
Shortly after arriving at TMH, Marni was assessed by the trauma team, told she had a severed/detached septum and severe lacerations, given pain medication and told exactly what would be happening to repair her nose.
“Every nurse, every person that came into my room was so gentle, listened to my story and didn’t judge me for what had happened. They all made me feel at ease,” Marni said.
Thinking she was going to get stitches and be on her way, Marni was told she would need facial surgery to repair her nose and was going to be admitted to the hospital under the care of Melissa Amundson, DDS, MPH, FACS, an oral and maxillofacial (jaw and face) surgeon who specializes in facial trauma and reconstructive surgery.
“A big factor for us in trauma surgery is the location of the bite, and Marni’s bite was in a significant cosmetic location on her face,” explained Melissa Amundson DDS, MPH, FACS, the only trauma fellowship trained oral and maxillofacial surgeon in the state of Florida. “We always want the best possible cosmetic outcome.”
Devastated, alone and with her nose in pieces, Marni’s whole world stopped. She had never stayed overnight in the hospital before and was terrified. Dr. Amundson reassured her that this would be the only way to get the best outcome possible for her nose. She provided insight and comforting words – Marni knew the best decision would be to trust her doctor and get the surgery.
“Before surgery, I was introduced to a nurse named Carolyn. My mom’s name is Carolyn. All I wanted at that moment was to have my mom with me,” said Marni. “With COVID and all, that was not possible, so as cheesy as it sounded, I felt like this was a sign that my mom was with me and I would be OK.”
Fast forward five months. Marni recalls having 30 to 40 stitches in her nose but was very pleased with how successful the surgery turned out. She followed Dr. Amundson’s orders to a T and her nose is healing beautifully.
“Most people would not even know that something happened,” said Marni. “My experience was unique because it happened during COVID. It was the scariest thing that has happened to me and I had to do it alone. But everyone at TMH sensed my anxiety and went above and beyond to comfort me. Dr. Amundson was honest and did not sugarcoat the news, but she also made me feel relaxed. I appreciated this so much.
It’s been almost six months and my nose is as good as new. I am so happy with the way it turned out that I do not need any corrective surgery. I am so grateful for the skilled hands of Dr. Amundson and the entire emergency and trauma team at TMH!”
As for Nash, he is being loved just as much, if not more, than before Marni’s accident.
“I love my dog and that will never change,” said Marni, “but I’m more careful around all dogs and I learned to take extra caution when approaching a sleeping pup.”
For more information about oral and maxillofacial surgery at TMH, visit TMH.ORG.
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