Suddenly, two dogs that live in the neighborhood ran across the road and began attacking them.
According to a friend, Lisa Kurzawa, who set up a GoFundMe campaign for the family, Thomas yelled for her son to run away. But Thomas, a Fredericksburg area native, was unable to flee, being legally blind and unsteady on her feet due to a hip replacement.
Thomas told Kurzawa that she tried to play dead and the dogs eased off her for a time, but then returned.
She sustained broken bones and severe lacerations to her face—including her one good eye—as well as bites to her arms and legs.
Thomas remains in VCU Medical Center in Richmond, where she was transported by helicopter following the attack. In a telephone interview Thursday, her husband, Robert Thomas, said she had just undergone her “eighth or ninth” surgery.
Doctors are still unable to tell him when he’ll be able to take his wife home, he said.
“We all—me, Michelle, both of my sons—we’ll never be right,” Robert Thomas said. “We’ll never be the same.”
The first surgery was to re-attach Michelle Thomas’ cheek, an operation that required 200 stitches, he said.
“Then they basically had to rebuild her left arm,” he said.
Subsequent surgeries have been skin grafts to close wounds on her hands and fingers.
Robert Thomas, a truck driver, spends Friday and Saturday nights at the hospital with his wife. On Sundays, he drives a hundred miles home to the community of Skipwith in Mecklenburg to be ready for work Monday morning.
During the week, Michelle Thomas’ mother and sisters, who live in Caroline and Spotsylvania counties, stay with her at the hospital.
At the Thomas home on Trottinridge Road, their 17-year-old son, who graduated from high school in December, stays with their younger son, who is attending school during the week.
Robert Thomas said he’s been happy with the care his wife, who is on Medicaid, has received at the hospital.
“You know what? She’s alive,” he said. “She’s got both arms, both hands and all 10 fingers. I’ve been happy with the work they’ve done.
“It’s been stressful and I probably ask too many questions,” he said. “One of the biggest questions they can’t answer is … when can I take her home? Right now it’s up in the air. They tell me they’re doing everything they can to get her home, but their main concern is that she won’t have any complications when she gets home.”
He said doctors told him that Michelle Thomas will need “excruciating” physical therapy for “a year-and-a-half, two years” to regain the use of her arm.
The Thomas family has two dogs at home, an Alaskan Malamute mix and a “chiweenie.”
Thomas said that since the attack, his younger son is afraid of dogs other than his own.
“He went to his grandmother’s house and he was skittish around her dogs for the first time,” Robert Thomas said.
The two dogs involved in the attack, which the GoFundMe site identified as pit bulls, are being held at the Mecklenburg County animal shelter, county Animal Warden Doug Blanton said.
“We are waiting for Mrs. Thomas to get out of the hospital because we’d like to have her there when we take the case to court,” Blanton said.
He said the animals’ owners, who are believed to live in the neighborhood, will be charged with having vicious dogs.
“There are two classifications, and they’ll be charged as vicious because the extent of the attack was so severe,” Blanton said.
The Code of Virginia defines a “dangerous dog” as a canine that has “bitten, attacked, or inflicted injury on a person or companion animal.” A “vicious dog” is one who has “killed a person or inflicted serious injury on a person.”
Robert Thomas said he isn’t angry with the owners of the dogs.
“They claim it wasn’t their dogs that [did] it. That kind of upsets me,” he said. “Five people have identified them, including one of their own family members. Take responsibility for what your dogs did. But I can’t say that I’m mad at them.”
The GoFundMe campaign Kurzawa organized has raised $5,185—more than its goal of $5,000—for Michelle’s medical bills. The campaign can be found at gofundme.com/woman-attacked-by-2-pitbulls.
GoFundMe Update:I spoke with Michelle yesterday, she is in good spirits. The stitches have been removed from her left eye. Drainage tubes have been put in both arms and 2 tendons have been connected. Her arm has been connected to her stomach to keep it alive and healthy it will eventually be disconnected. Michelle still has many surgeries to go, there are just a lot of skin grafts going on right now as there was no skin left on her arm after the attack. thanks for all your prayers and kindness I will keep you all posted