Geaux Hero: Resilient Young Patient Recovers from Dog Bite Thanks to Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital

Mar 7, 2024 | Patient Stories

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Seeing Katie Lundy perform flips in her backyard or taking tumbling classes, you might not realize she almost lost her right arm after a severe dog bite last year. 

The 11-year-old was rushed to Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital’s Level II Pediatric Trauma Center in February 2023 after a dog bit her arm and severely damaged it at the elbow. 

Ruston Sanchez, MD, a reconstructive plastic surgeon with Our Lady of the Lake, says the damage was so bad, other hospitals and trauma centers might have chosen to amputate. 

“All the nerves were exposed, all the muscles that bend the elbow were gone, but the hand still had blood flow and function,” Dr. Sanchez recalls. “Our challenge was to save the arm first, but to also make it functional again.” 

That included several operations, including an incredibly rare surgery to take part of the latissimus muscle from the middle of her back and reconfiguring it for a new use in her arm, hooking it into her forearm to allow her to bend her elbow.  

After more than 10 procedures, including skin grafts, reattaching nerves and veins and removing damaged tissue, Katie began the difficult process of rehabilitation — essentially, training her arm and the “new” muscle to move correctly. 

The Path to Recovery 

Dr. Sanchez credits the rehabilitation nurses and physical therapists, including Our Lady of the Lake’s partners at Baton Rouge Orthopaedic Clinic, for helping guide Katie through recovery and the struggles of getting her arm functional again. 

It’s helpful that Katie is also young, Dr. Sanchez says. Kids are more resilient, and their brains can handle that kind of intense mental retraining of a muscle better than adults. 

“Her function is almost equal to the other arm now,” he says. “She’s been just an extraordinary patient, and a lot of that has to do with her just being a really tough girl and also her family being so supportive.” 

Katie’s mom, Candice Lundy, is a nurse, so she came into the situation prepared to follow the guidance of Katie’s care team. 

“We’re very grateful for everyone involved in her care. The nurses went above and beyond to take care of Katie,” Candice says. Some of the nurses have become good friends with the Lundy family now, and continued checking on Katie as she moved from intensive care to inpatient and onto rehabilitation — a personal touch that made all the difference in lifting Katie’s spirits. 

Expert Team for a Complicated Surgery 

Dr. Sanchez says having the experience and multidisciplinary care of a Level I trauma center at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center combined with a Level II pediatric trauma center at our Children’s Hospital means patients have access to highly skilled reconstructive plastic surgeons, vascular surgeons and orthopedic teams who can tackle the delicate work of repairing a complicated injury to an arm or leg. 

“We can handle certain cases that other places might not be able to,” Dr. Sanchez says. “I might see only a handful of cases like Katie’s in my whole career, but we had the expertise and experience to do it. Otherwise, a patient might have been sent to New Orleans or Houston for this type of procedure.” 

Katie’s Perseverance 

Candice says her daughter is just a typical 11-year-old girl now. Katie loves to play and be active. She admires her 16-year-old sister, who is a cheerleader, and so Katie aspires to follow that path herself. 

That’s why she’s eager to get into tumbling classes, and Candice says her doctors have encouraged the family to let Katie continue to push herself. 

Though her right arm still has plenty of scarring from the injury and operations, she has nearly a full range of motion. Dr. Sanchez says when she’s wearing long sleeves, you aren’t able to notice the injury at all. 

“This kind of trauma is hard on a family — there’s a lot of surgeries, a lot of time at the hospital. It upends your life,” Dr. Sanchez says. “But Katie went from not wanting anyone to touch her injury to really getting into her rehab exercises. You can’t get there without family support. There’s a little bit of tough love needed, pushing your kid to make sure they do as much as they can. It really takes a good patient and a dedicated family to get there.” 

While Candice says both she and her daughter still have nightmares from the experience, Katie is not as fearful of dogs as she thought she would be. Part of that she credits to dog therapy at our Children’s Hospital, where dogs are brought in to interact with pediatric patients and provide them with a positive experience. 

“At first I was worried,” Candice says, “but she’s come out of her shell, and she is actually thriving.” 

Katie and her family are being honored as one of Our Lady of the Lake’s Geaux Heroes, which recognizes incredible stories of strength and resilience. She is being recognized March 9 at the LSU Men’s Basketball game.   

Learn more about the exceptional pediatric care we offer at Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Health as well as pediatric services throughout our health system.

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