saving face

The dog bite scars that run down the side of my face are killing me today. Sometimes, they flare up and throb.
A few months after turning 19, I visited my parents. Already seven months pregnant, I hobbled out to the sunroom to greet our dog, Caesar, with a sausage roll.

When I bent down to give the beast his treat, he completely ignored it, made a running leap for me and sank his teeth into the sides of my face.

In the split second before the panic and pain registered, I had a moment of clarity. If I wanted to protect my baby, I had to drop to the ground as quickly as possible.  I didn’t want to lose my balance and fall on my swollen midsection, so I put one arm in front of my face and wrapped the other one around my stomach.

After inching my way to the ground, I remained head down while screaming at the top of my lungs. The blood gushed from the open wounds and I started to breath in the blood that was pooling below my face. Hearing the screams, my brother rushed out and restrained the dog, while my mom helped me inside.

I didn’t even bother to put on shoes before we drove to an urgent care clinic down the street. Two nurses cleaned me up as much as they could, but urged us to go to a bigger hospital.

I cried during the ride to the hospital. It hurt like hell, but really, I was crying because I didn’t want to look like a freak from the scars.

I guess that’s a nineteen-year-old for you. She can be a pregnant, unwed college dropout, living at her grandmother’s with no money and no car, but when she gets bitten by a dog, all she cares about is her face.

After being admitted into the hospital, we sat and waited. The emergency room doctors didn’t want to stitch up the wounds. They paged the plastic surgeon on call to do the delicate task. We were a sight. A shoeless pregnant girl with her mother and brother, all three spattered with blood.

I’m so grateful for the plastic surgeon who took the time to ask about my pregnancy as he carefully sewed the wounds shut. He dared to ask what kind of life I imagined for my daughter. He offered me kindness and encouragement. Thank you, Dr. Saldana, wherever you are.

They aren’t so noticeable today. After eleven years and numerous laser treatments, the redness has diminished and each mound is less pronounced. At times, like today, when I have a headache or when my hair brushes against the scars, it still hurts. I try to think of it as a reminder of how far I’ve come.

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