By Joe Johnson
While her classmates at Winder-Barrow High School are in the second month of the academic year, 15-year-old Joslyn Stinchcomb is completing her second month in the hospital.
The would-be freshman had hopes of playing flute in her school’s marching band, but due to a brutal dog attack that nearly killed her on July 31, Stinchcomb can barely speak.
The attack happened as the young girl was walking in her Winder neighborhood, and two pit bulls escaped from a neighbor’s house where they were unsecured and unattended and chased Stinchcomb before bringing her to the ground and viciously mauling her.
Two girls who heard Joslyn’s screams called 911.
According to a Barrow County Sheriff’s report, a deputy who responded to the scene found Joslyn lying face down against a curb, with one dog grabbing her neck and the other biting at the girl’s head.
When the deputy got out of his vehicle, one of the dogs began to approach him and he shot it, according to the report. The wounded dog ran off and the other released its grasp on the girl and also ran away.
The dogs were later located at the owner’s residence and subsequently euthanized. The owner, 29-year-old Alexandria Torregrossa, was arrested for reckless conduct after she returned home, according to the report.
Meanwhile, first responders frantically worked to save the girl’s life. The dogs that attacked Joslyn ripped off her entire scalp, severely damaged her trachea, tore off an ear and bit her all over. Joslyn suffered lacerations all over her face and so much nerve damage was done that it may affect her smile, blinking and other facial expressions.
“We are so grateful to everyone from that day that saved Joslyn’s life from the girls that called 911, dispatch, deputies, paramedics, EMTs, fire, Air Evac, doctors, nurses, etc.” said the girl’s aunt, Charity Stinchcomb Montgomery. “Everyone all worked together in a way that is really remarkable, but just like they should. We are so glad the paramedics were able to intubate Joslyn, as that was very crucial in her still being with us.”
The tube paramedics placed into Joslyn’s airway through her mouth allowed the girl to keep breathing until she was flown by helicopter to Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, where she was placed on a ventilator and underwent 20 hours of surgery to try to repair the extensive damage, with reconstructing her airway to make it viable a top priority.
Doctors at Grady decided it was best to send Joslyn to Egleston Children’s Hospital for more surgery and to begin the long-term planning for her medical care.
During Joslyn’s 12th surgery, an Egleston surgeon was able to locate the girl’s second vocal cord, which initially appeared to be missing.
The prognosis suddenly became much more promising, after the doctor had just days before told family members that Joslyn might never again speak or swallow normally.
The doctor also informed the family that the infection to Joslyn’s head caused by the dirty dog bites was looking better, and began talking about doing skin grafts onto her skull.
“All in all, the surgery went well and although the doctors still can’t answer the ‘how long’ questions, we are much farther along in her recovery than the doctors thought we would be this time last week, reported Joslyn’s grandfather, Paul Stinchcomb.
Paul and his wife, Sandra, are Joslyn’s legal guardians, and in the beginning only Sandra was allowed to be in Joslyn’s room due to COVID-19 precautions. At Egleston, Paul was allowed to join Sandra in Joslyn’s room.
The grandparents were brought to tears on Sept. 12, when Joslyn uttered her first words, albeit in a faint whisper, since being attacked.
In a brief video, Joslyn looked into the camera and said, “Thank you for saving my life.”
The video was later played in church for the two Barrow County deputies who came to Joslyn’s rescue. At the church the deputies were also presented with trophies that paid tribute to their actions on that fateful day.
Joslyn’s aunt, Charity Stinchcomb Montgomery, was spokesperson for her family in the initial days after the dog attack, keeping the community apprised on Joslyn’s condition through posts on the Prayers and Updates for Joslyn Facebook page
After Joslyn underwent her 14th surgical procedure on Friday, Montgomery said that her niece will be going into the operating room twice a week to try to fight the infection from the dog bites, clean the area and replace the wound VAC.”
Vacuum-assisted closure (VAC) is a method of decreasing air pressure around a wound to assist the healing.
Surgical procedure number 15 was on Tuesday, when doctors cleaned Joslyn’s head, put topical antibiotics on it, changed out the wound VAC and checked on the infection as they try to figure out why it is not getting better.
"Joslyn has come so far in just over 8 weeks,” Montgomery said. “The reality is she should not be alive, and is a true walking, talking miracle. Right now, her voice is still just a whisper, but oh how sweet it is.”
She added, “Joslyn still has many obstacles to overcome. The infection being number one, but also the paralysis in her face, skin grafts, emotional scarring, etc.
“However, we feel that she is on her way. She can now cap off her trach and breathe through her mouth and nose, she can eat, she can walk, and can even whisper!” Montgomery said.
Throughout the ordeal, the family’s faith has been sustained from the support they receive from the community, including individuals, businesses, and groups like motorcycle clubs, and even people from all over the world who have offered support through prayer, messages, cards and care packages.
“We believe that God is hearing the prayers and must have something special in store for our JBird! So, thank you!” Montgomery said.
Anyone who wishes to donate to help pay for Joslyn's medical expenses may do so at https://paypal.me/pools/c/8rm0RZItmD