A toddler who was mauled by a dog back in March celebrated her second birthday Sunday on Long Island alongside the plastic surgeon who performed life-changing surgery on her.
Alessia Sansotta suffered multiple fractures to the bones in her face and torn tendons in her eye when she was attacked by a family member's pit bull on March 6.
"It wasn't my kid, it wasn't her," mom Dianna Sansotta said. "It was destructive and horrific. It was really, really bad."
"Dr. Rachel saw it, they became friends, my sister spoke to her, it was like a Godsend," Dianna Sansotta said.
Dr. Rachel Ruotolo, a pediatric plastic surgeon who specializes in craniofacial surgery, is based on Long Island with the Long Island Plastic Surgical Group.
She gets requests from parents all over the world, but this was different.
"There are some kids, it's heart-wrenching, that I can't help," she said. "This is right here in my backyard and my specialty. It's all I do. Not even a question."
Dr. Ruotolo was part of the team that operated on Alessia, at one point using a piece of the little girl's rib to reconstruct a portion of her eye socket.
"I'm not just these kids' surgeon," Dr. Ruotolo said. "I become part of their life, and there is a huge emotional part of what I do with the parents."
Alessia will need more surgery because of her age, as things may be stable now will shift as she grows.
Dr. Rachel says she's there for the long haul.
"I go, 'You're not retiring anytime soon, are you? I need you for a long time,'" Dianna Sansotta said. "She's forever in our life. Anybody that looks at Alessia for the rest of her life is looking at what she's done, so forever I am grateful to her."