Jeannie Wood returns to her love of painting after surviving an unthinkable attack

By Jade Waddy

Jeannie Wood vividly remembers the moment she was attacked by two family pit bulls she had previously interacted with.

“I was at my son’s house picking up my granddaughter and I remember the dogs were really agitated and I thought they were going to fight each other,” Wood said. “I called my son’s girlfriend and told her what was going on and she suggested letting them out.”

Just hours before, Wood, her granddaughter and the dogs were joyfully playing in the living room. However, things took an unexpected turn when she let the dogs out of their kennel.

“They attacked me,” Wood said. “When they first came at me, I remember falling back to catch my fall and I ended up breaking my wrist.”

Wood’s son returned to the home to discover his mother being attacked by the dogs and was able to intervene and corral them back into their kennel.

“It was probably 15-20 minutes before he came to the house, which felt like a long time in the moment,” Wood said. “I remember telling him I may need a few stitches after feeling some of the blood.”

Shockingly, Wood doesn’t remember feeling any pain while being attacked. She was bit on both of her arms and legs, the back of her head, stomach, chest and back.

Wood’s son called 911 for the Baytown EMS who, upon assessing Wood’s extensive injuries, determined she needed to get to a hospital immediately and called for Memorial Hermann Life Flight®.

“I remember just wanting to go to sleep,” Wood said. “I remember seeing my Life Flight nurse John Linares and his big helmet while in flight and then the next thing I remember I was waking up in the intensive care unit.”

Wood was flown to the Red Duke Trauma Institute at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center  where she spent more than two months recovering from her injuries, including nine weeks in the John S. Dunn Burn Center.

“When Jeannie arrived there were so many bite wounds everywhere, we were unable to count,” said Sasha Adams, MD, a trauma surgeon affiliated with Memorial Hermann-TMC. “The bites were everywhere.”

Adams described the injuries as soft-tissue wounds versus deep life-threatening injuries and knew it would be a long journey for Wood. The dogs bit into muscles and tendons but did not cause any major artery damage. 

“Our team was focused on washing her wounds and saving the flaps of skin tissue that looked like they would survive,” Dr. Adams said. “Dog bites present a high risk of infection so we also ensured she was given proper antibiotics.”

Wood’s injuries would require multiple surgeries. Adams called Daniel Freet, MD, a plastic surgeon affiliated with Memorial Hermann-TMC to help repair the numerous wounds.

Through physical and occupational therapy, Wood regained mobility and strength in her limbs after undergoing 18 surgeries, including, several skin grafts.

While recovering from her injuries, Wood thought she would never paint again, something she loved doing.

“I didn’t think I would really be able to use my hands again, the way I had previously used them,” Wood said.

Thanks to the work by her surgical and rehabilitation teams, Wood has resumed her love of painting.

Wood recently had the chance to reunite with Dr. Adams and the Life Flight crew that helped her.  

“I painted a special painting for the Life Flight crew of a helicopter to show my appreciation,” Wood said. “I’m so thankful for Dr. Adams and my entire care team for saving my life on that day, I know they see dozens of patients a day but to be reunited with them was a special moment.”

It was a fulfilling moment for Dr. Adams as well.

“It’s so special to see our patients again. It’s not something we get to see often as trauma surgeons,” Dr. Adams said. “It was so satisfying to see someone I remember coming in that was so damaged and to see her smiling and knowing she is able to have joy in her life makes all that I do worthwhile.”

Wood is thankful for the care she received.

“I’m grateful to be alive, out of all of the damage (the dogs) did, there was nothing that couldn’t be fixed and my care team has done just that.”

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