Bamberg County resident Norris Steedley's eyes fill with tears as he thinks about the pain he is going through after being bitten by a pit bull at his home April 11.
"I am trying to zen myself for the pain," said Steedley, whose arms are heavily wrapped in bandages where a neighbor's pit bull took multiple bites, tearing flesh from bone.
Steedley says the "swelling has gone down a little bit," but he is aware the recovery is expected to be slow, long and paved with multiple plastic surgeries. In the interim, wound care and antibiotics will be crucial as preventing infection is a matter of life and death.
For the 59-year old Lemon Creek Road resident, the evening of Friday, April 11, is one he will not forget.
The day started out much like any other.
In fact, Steedley petted Sledge, the pit bull, earlier in the day. Little did he know, the hand that petted Sledge would almost be lost a few hours later when the dog pounced on him and began biting and biting.
Steedley said he was out grilling pork loin in the back yard when he saw the neighbor's small pit bull puppy come into his yard. He knew if the small puppy was out, Sledge was soon to follow.
Concerned about his boxer, Timber, which he said was attacked by Sledge the previous week, Steedley proceeded to bring his dog to safety when Sledge appeared.
"It came around the corner," Steedley said. "I saw it coming ... and I knew it was going to zone in on my dog Timber."
"It lunged at me. It got my arm" Steedley said. "It pulled me off the steps and down. I was hollering and screaming, 'Help! Help!'"
Steedley, who lives alone, estimates it was about three to five minutes before his neighbors heard the screaming and came to his assistance.
"It took them a couple of minutes to get the dog off," Steedley said. "They were prying its mouth open. He has a big head and big jaw. It took a while before they got it off of me. It seemed like forever. It was just ripping me."
Steedley says in order to stop the blood, a makeshift tourniquet was made from a towel from inside his house and an old pair of jeans on his porch.
"My house was sprayed," he said. "Blood was pumping out. My house was saturated with blood."
While he was going in and out of consciousness, Steedley's sister, Edith O'Neal, said the neighbors called EMS. Steedley was transported to the former Bamberg County hospital and airlifted to Columbia's Baptist Richland Parkridge.
Steedley remembers looking at his left arm at the hospital and was struck by the brutal sight.
"I know the Life Flight surgeon told me it was the worst dog bite he has ever seen," Steedley said.
When all was said and done, Steedley had suffered multiple severe dog bites to his left upper arm as well bites on his right arm and right lower leg.
The dog ended up also ripping the thumb on his right hand, leaving him without his first digit. He estimates the doctors had to give him three or four units of blood.
"If they had not pulled the dog off of me, I would be dead," he said. "I can imagine a child being mauled by this dog."
The incident has traumatized Steedley, who is a self-described dog lover and particularly a lover of pit bulls. A week after the incident, he is still afraid to go back to the scene of the attack. He is currently living with his sister.
"It has made me fear pit bulls now," he said.
Several attempts to reach the owner of the dog were not successful.
An unidentified woman saying she was daughter of the dog's owner was reached and said Steedley's version of the events is not true.
She said Steedley's dog and Sledge had attacked one another in previous incidents and that he did not take the necessary precautions to prevent the two from interacting.
"He (Sledge) would never do anything to anybody," the woman said before the phone call ended.
Steedley says he has no hard feelings toward his neighbors. He just wants to be assured of one thing going forward.
"I want them to fortify their yard," he said. "That is all I am asking for. I would like for them to take responsibility. I don't want them to put the dog down because I love dogs."
Steedley did say he has hired Orangeburg attorney Clyde Dean. Dean could not be reached for comment.
Steedley expressed concerns that he has not received the support of the Bamberg County Sheriff's Office or of the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.
A Bamberg County Sheriff's Office incident report notes the law enforcement agency was not notified of the incident until April 13 when Steedley's sister called dispatch wanting to speak to a deputy to find out why the dog was not removed from the residence.
The report notes dispatch confirmed EMS and Bamberg County fire departments responded to the scene but not the sheriff's office.
The BCSO was later able to reach Steedley at the hospital and tried to get his side of what happened.
According to the BCSO incident report, "The two dogs were fighting and that he tried to break them up."
But both Steedley and his sister say he was not trying to break the dogs up.
The incident report notes the BCSO informed Steedley that with it being a weekend, there was no place to take the dog or a vet to put the dog down. Steedley was also informed DHEC would investigate.
DHEC Public Information Officer Laura Renwick said the department did receive notification of the dog attack and followed protocol to determine if rabies exposure occurred.
"To maintain privacy, we can't provide or confirm any information about any individual or an individual case," she said.
According to DHEC records, it was notified of the incident on Friday, April 12, at 3:30 p.m. and began an investigation April 15.
The DHEC report notes that "Sledge has bitten several times before."
The dog was quarantined on April 16 and a DHEC investigator unsuccessfully tried to notify Steedley about the quarantine.
The DHEC investigator visited the dog owner's property on April 16 and found Sledge.
"Dog appears alive and healthy," the report states.
On April 22, the DHEC investigator called the dog's owner to set up an end visit for the quarantine but did not get an answer. Later that same day, the investigator went to the dog owner's property and "blew horn, no one came to the door. Could not see dog."
On April 23, the investigator once again tried to call the dog owner but did not receive an answer.
A check on the status of the dog April 26 revealed Sledge was fine physically and that rabies was not a concern.