Young surfer survives dog bite
The Wolfson Children’s Hospital pediatric trauma team repaired damage to Copal Lipnosky’s face.
Juliette Allen Published: 5/16/2019
When Sarah Peters took her son, Copal Lipnosky, to the beach on August 3, 2018, she never imagined the day would end at the hospital. Instead, she was focused on the warm St. Augustine sand, the waves she and her son would surf, and the celebration she had planned for Copal’s 7th birthday just two days later.
“A great day can turn into a medical emergency so fast,” said Peters.
When Peters and Copal returned to their apartment building, Peters started preparing a barbecue while Copal went to help take care of a neighbor’s dog. When Copal put his head inside the dog’s kennel to pull out the water bowl, the dog bit his face less than an inch from his eye.
“He had a big gash on his face and there was blood everywhere,” said Peters. “I was terrified. It was so scary to see. But the weird part was, he wasn’t crying. He was in shock and he didn’t understand. I don’t even think he felt it.”
Peters rushed Copal to a local hospital but ultimately made the decision to bring him to Wolfson Children’s Hospital. There, a team, including pediatric emergency medicine specialists with Emergency Resources Group and pediatric maxillofacial surgeons with the University of Florida College of Medicine – Jacksonville, rushed to repair the damage on Copal’s face, so close to his eye.
Dog bites are a child health threat
Nick Poulos, MD, medical director for the Pediatric Trauma Center at Wolfson Children’s Hospital and a pediatric surgeon with Nemours Children’s Specialty Care, Jacksonville, said roughly one child with a dog bite comes into one of Wolfson Children’s four Emergency Centers every day. Up to three each month, Dr. Poulos said, are severe enough to require reconstructive surgery.
“It’s an almost daily occurrence and unfortunately, it’s usually to the face,” Dr. Poulos said. “Dogs naturally go for the neck and face area because those are the most vulnerable areas, and it’s the easiest way to render somebody helpless.”
Dr. Poulos added that the most common age for dog bite victims is 3 years old or younger.
“Dogs are animals,” he said. “Even though it may be a family dog or a friend’s dog and you love it, when an adult leaves the room, the dog is in charge.”
Copal has recovered well in the months following the attack, Peters said, although he has developed a strong fear of dogs. Peters, still a bit shaken by the whole experience, jokingly described herself as a “helicopter mom” in the wake of the attack, always staying nearby and constantly checking on Copal to make sure he’s okay.
Copal will eventually need at least one other surgery to further minimize his facial scars. But thanks to the care he received at Wolfson Children’s Hospital and its regional Pediatric Trauma Center on the day he needed it most, he’s already back to riding the waves, an inspiration to other children who go through a similar journey.
Find out more about emergency care and the Pediatric Trauma Center at Wolfson Children's Hospital.