Nearly one year after a vicious pit bull attack that left toddler Payton Boshnell badly disfigured, the little girl’s parents are giving thanks for the Boston doctors who took on her remarkable case and pieced together her shattered face.
“I looked over and I saw that he had latched onto her face, and was throwing her back and forth like a toy,” the girl’s mother, 22-year-old Emily Boshnell, said of the attack. “I couldn’t breathe. I got tunnel vision and all I could think was ‘9-1-1.’ ”
Sheer panic kept her from looking at her daughter.
“I was so scared I was going to look at her, and she was going to be dead,” she said.
It was just after Thanksgiving 2015, and Boshnell, her husband and two children had recently moved to Mexico, Maine, from Kansas. They were visiting her grandparents nearby, who two years earlier had gotten a PIT BULL named King.
Emily’s grandfather had just picked up Payton, then 2 1⁄2, and set her down next to the dog.
The next thing Boshnell knew, King had sunk his teeth into her daughter’s face and pulled her forward three feet.
“It was literally right on the side of her head,” Boshnell recalled. “This year, we’re so thankful she’s alive and she’s still our happy little girl.”
King was eventually put down.
Payton received surgery at Central Maine Medical Center, but the complexity of her injuries brought her to Massachusetts General Hospital. Even among experts at MGH, Payton’s case was an anomaly.
“I’d never seen an injury of this nature in a patient that young,” said Dr. Branko Bojovic, a plastic surgeon at MGH for Children and chief of plastic surgery at Shriners Hospital for Children.
Payton's cheek was fractured so dramatically that the bone was pushing on her muscle, paralyzing the right side of her face. Her eye socket was destroyed, which ultimately would have caused her eye to sink down into her sinus cavity. Her condition was so unique, Bojovic said, he is in the process of writing up a case study on it.
Bojovic entered Payton’s face through a cut under her eye and reassembled the delicate material — the bones of a child that young are spongy, and not fully stable — and he inserted a metal plate into her eye socket. Within a week, Payton regained the movement in her face.
“After the accident, she would say, ‘Bad doggy, doggy bite,’ ” Boshnell said. “We were scared she wouldn’t come back out of her shell. But she will light up anyone’s day, and she’ll sing and dance. She’s back to being her own bubbly little person.”