Delores L. Walker, Free Press Reporter
Just days before Janice Hart was to host her annual garden party a moment in time altered her plans and almost cost her life.
After visiting Mitchell and Jean Hart on a pleasant afternoon in April of this year, Hart said she was on her way home when right before her eyes a favored pet of the Harts (Mitchell and Jean) was struck by a passing car that left the dog horribly injured.
"I had been petting the animal not more than five minutes before leaving so without giving the decision a second thought I jumped out of my car and ran to help the injured dog," Hart said.
It was to be one of the worst decisions that she had ever made in her entire life.
What unfolded in the next minute or so is taken straight out of the most horrendous nightmare imaginable. Hart said she shares the account in the hope that it will save others, especially children, from the trauma and long recovery that she has experienced.
Hart said when she approached the injured dog and reached down to help, the injured dog, a pit-bulldog weighing about 50 pounds, came at her with all the primal instincts of a wolf.
The animal literally shook and shredded the flesh from her arms, hands and legs as she tried desperately to protect herself.
Screaming for help but with no one there to come to her rescue, Hart prayed, "God, please don't let me die here in this dirt road."
As the large dog lunged for her throat and sank its teeth within centimeters of her jugular vein, Hart said she saw the dog's large teeth and with supernatural strength put her thumb into the dog's open mouth and stiffened her arm in an effort to remove the dog's teeth from her throat. With her other arm she managed to grab the dog's collar in an attempt to loosen its hold on her.
By the time a neighbor arrived and managed to distract the dog's attention away from Hart, she lay on the ground, bleeding, bruised, in shock from loss of blood, and very possibly near death.
Lafayette County EMS was called to transport Hart to Doctors' Memorial Hospital, in Perry. She was taken into surgery that took over two hours to repair her punctured thyroid gland, broken bones, torn flesh and a finger that had to be partially re-attached.
Hart said she sat almost immobile in a chair for the better part of three weeks, trying to gain strength and let the soreness pass. Her larynx was so bruised she could barely talk. According to Hart the dog had shook her to the point that every bone and muscle in her body was in protest at the invasion upon her body.
Hart said her husband Kenny learned a lot about peeling potatoes and cooking during the time the 50 plus stitches and 18 staples were healing on her hands, arms, knee and throat.
"Also, Hart said, I had to come to grips with the emotional trauma.....it took a while, but I'm okay."
Hart said this is one of the reasons that she agreed to tell her story. She teared up as she thought about the possibility that a small child might encountered the same type attack. She said the doctors mentioned that although she will be 70 her next birthday she is physically fit. The exercise she gets as she maintains her beautiful lawn and flower gardens from year to year has not only produced beauty for all to see but has kept her strong as well.
In comparing the events, good and bad, Hart said the good thing about this was the fact that the dog was vaccinated and had an identification collar. She did not have to spend two weeks waiting and wondering if the dog was rabid. "I did not have to take rabies shots since the owner of the dog had vaccinated the animal," Hart said. "But, just think about all the stray dogs that roam the streets of Mayo, what if a person is attacked by one of those? The treatment would be totally different since these dogs are not vaccinated and no one seems to claim ownership," she said.
Hart along with many residents in Mayo has voiced concern at the danger these stray dogs present. The ever-present danger for a dog attack remains as long as these stray dogs are allowed to wander the streets and yards of homeowners.
"I cannot stress it too strongly, don't approach a dog, or for that fact any injured animal, it might cost you your life," Hart said. Again she said, "five minutes before I was attacked, I had petted the dog that tried to take my life.
"You might think, my dog is too nice, too sweet to do that. Well, I'm living proof, Hart said, the unthinkable can and does happen, it could happen to you."
Hart thanks the Lafayette EMS for their quick response, law officers that were on the scene, the staff at DMH (Dr. Nelson who did the surgery) the folks at Lafayette Health Care that has provided therapy and all those that have expressed their love and concern for her well-being.
Hart said the doctors and therapists are amazed at the quality of recovery they have seen in her. "I've used a lot of cocoa butter", cream to soften the scarring and worked hard to recover movement in the broken bones.
Hart had her invitations for the garden party ready to pass out and the first few lines seem almost prophetic that read:
Welcome Sweet Springtime! What a joy to have you visit us again.
You're why the flowers grow and the birds start their singing.
A wake-up call to a burst of new growth. What a miracle! It's free! A gift from God!
Hart too has been granted a miracle, a gift from God, a gift of life that could so easily have been taken away.....all in the matter of a minute it could have been gone.