8 Mar 2014

Mauled girl will need years of surgery

10:02 am on 8 March 2014

The Auckland medical team working to treat a young Japanese girl mauled by four dogs say she will continue to need surgery well into adulthood to fix the damage caused by more than 100 bites.

Sakurako Uehara, aged 7, was attacked by four Staffordshire Bull Terrier crosses at the Murupara home of a family friend in the Bay of Plenty on Monday.

Zac Moaveni, second from left, and David Galler, centre.

Zac Moaveni, second from left, and David Galler, centre. Photo: RNZ / Murielle Baker

Surgeons working on her at Middlemore Hospital say the attack was ferocious, sustained and could have killed her. The girl remains in a critical but stable condition.

Sakurako will undergo more surgery this weekend - her fourth operation in less than a week.


The plastic surgeon working on her reconstruction, Zac Moaveni, says the child suffered more than 100 bites across her face, limbs and body and it won't be completed until she reaches adulthood.

"Any one of those would make you wince thinking how that would have happened - and it's not just the bite with a dog, but it's the crush and the force that's behind it. It's a very different injury to, say, a stab wound and a cat bite or anything like that."

Dr Moaveni says they're focused now on making sure that her wounds are clean from infection before they start considering reconstructive options early next week.

Surgical staff treating Sakurako say her injuries are very disturbing and they have been affected by what she's suffered. David Galler, an intensive care doctor, says they are deeply concerned by what has happened.

"It was very tough, I think, for the people at the beginning. It was not a pretty sight and very disturbing for people. And I think everyone will have been very badly affected by how she is, how her parents are, what's going through her head, how she will cope."

Dr Galler says the girl is aware of what has happened to her and what is going on, but remains heavily sedated.

The girl had undergone three operations at Middlemore Hospital by Friday afternoon and another surgery is planned for Saturday.

The family have been in New Zealand for about two months as they made plans to settle at Murupara. The Bay of Plenty township has so far collected more than $60,000 to help them, though the medical care is paid for by the Accident Compensation Corporation.

Pippa van Paauwe is an emergency care social worker looking after the parents and read a statement on their behalf on Friday afternoon.

"We don'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. We are grateful for all the various offers of support, many people want to know how they can help. Please just keep Sakurako in your prayers."

The dogs involved were put down soon after the attack.