A Girl's Incredible Reconstruction After Panther Bite - NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

A Girl's Incredible Reconstruction After Panther Bite



    A 12-year-old girl who survived a horrific attack by a wild cat when she was 5 years old is thriving today.

    Jade DeMoss was attacked while visiting family in Van Zandt County. It was never confirmed, but she and family members who were there say it was a black panther.

    "I remember the panther pouncing on me, and I remember the feeling of it ripping my muscle or flesh and trying to tear me limb for limb," she said.

    She said she tried to protect her face while she was on the ground.

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    "I truly didn't want it to get my face at all," Jade said. "I was just trying to protect my face."

    Part of her scalp was bitten off, and the animal also ate part of Jade's ear and left claw marks on the side of her face.

    But Jade, who has undergone more than 20 surgeries, said she doesn't harbor any grudges toward the animal or her situation.

    "It wasn't his fault," she said. "I was a little girl standing next to a big horse. I looked like a little tiny horse. I can't blame it. It was its natural instinct."

    After the attack, Jade was flown by helicopter to Children's Medical Center of Dallas.

    "I remember waking up the next day in a lot of bandages," she said.

    Dr. Jeffrey Janis, now the chief of plastic surgery at Parkland Hospital and on the staff at UT Southwestern Medical Center, performed all of her surgeries.

    He documented his journey to put her back together in photos, some of which are too graphic to share.

    He borrowed muscles from Jade's back and transferred them up to her scalp and also performed skin grafts.

    "Some of these operations were to do skin grafting, where we borrowed skin from her thighs and from her back and transferred that skin up to the scalp," Janis said.

    But he couldn't create hair on the top of her head, so Jade wears a wig from the organization Locks of Love.

    She said other children tease her, but she has learned to cope.

    "All my true friends -- the ones I can truly depend on -- know," she said.

    Linda Hebert, her mother, said she is proud of her.

    "I just want her to be able to do what she wants to do and for nobody to stop her," she said. "I want her to know that nobody can stand in her way."

    Jade's journey has given her extreme wisdom well beyond her years.

    "I learned the true meaning of life," she said. "It's not what you look like or how people treat you. It's what you do with your life."