Dog attack victim faces years of surgery

By Cassandra Mason

Sakurako Uehara is under sedation in a critical but stable condition at Middlemore Hospital.
Sakurako Uehara is under sedation in a critical but stable condition at Middlemore Hospital.

A seven-year-old girl mauled by dogs in Murupara on Monday now faces years of reconstructive surgery to repair extensive wounds to most of her body.

Japanese girl Sakurako Uehara is in a stable condition in the Intensive Care Unit at Middlemore Hospital following Monday's attack by four Staffordshire bull terrier-cross dogs.

Plastic surgeon Dr Zac Moaveni said today the little girl was suffering from more than 100 bites to her face, limbs, and almost "every part of her body".

"I don't think any of us were prepared for what we were going to see."

The priority in the first week was to stabilise Sakurako and clean her "grossly contaminated" injuries to avoid infection, Dr Moaveni said.

Then doctors could move onto the reconstructive stage - expected to begin early next week, he said.

"We'll most likely be transferring tissue from elsewhere on the body."

Dog bites differed to stab wounds and other injuries because of the force of the "crush" and tissue damage, he said.

Sakurako's healthy tissue would be used to repair her injuries, but it was still too early to tell which tissue was permanently damaged and unsuitable for the grafts.

"You can't always tell which tissue will survive."

The reconstruction of Sakurako's "ferocious" facial wounds would take time, Dr Moaveni said.

"The face is a delicate structure. When it changes, it can be such a difficult thing to reconstruct. It's going to take a number of stages .. [it] won't be complete until she's fully grown."

Read: Debate on dogs has to happen

Middlemore Hospital intensivist Dr David Galler said intensive care was doing what it could to make sure Sakurako was comfortable and manage her pain.

Staff were finding it hard to disassociate themselves from the little girl's plight, he said.

"It's really tough."

Sakurako's family said in a statement they didn't know what to expect in the coming weeks and months.

"We have a long journey ahead, we simply wish to take things one day at a time."

They were grateful for the support they had received since the attack, especially from medical staff and the driver of a red car who helped to get their daughter to the hospital.

"Many people want to know how they can help, please just keep Sakurako in your prayers."

- APNZ

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