‘One day at a time’: Family reflects on 11-year-old’s recovery after dog attack

Published: Feb. 3, 2023 at 10:39 PM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Monday will mark one month since an 11-year-old boy lost his ear and most of his scalp in a violent dog attack in Columbia County.

We’ve been following the story of Justin Gilstrap since the night of the attack. We spoke with Justin’s family for the first time since they filed a lawsuit against the dog owner.

His mom tells us they are taking things day by day, and she is just amazed at how far he’s come in such a short period of time.

“This month, it’s just been a nightmare. It has possibly been the worst thing I have ever been through,” said Ericka Stevens, mom.

Life for Stevens and Justin is not what it used to be.

“Not knowing in the beginning whether he was gonna even make it or not. The only positive part of that is to see how far he’s actually pushed himself in a month,” she said.

In a month’s time, Justin has had more than 10 surgeries.


“He’s not upset about it. He’s just like, ‘mama, one day at a time’,” she said.

One day at a time is how Justin’s lived since three dogs attacked him. It’s also a new reality his family in Grovetown is living.

Kellie Aguilar is Justin’s aunt. She said, “When the attack first happened, it was hard going up there but, you know, with time, us going up there, seeing his progress has been really good.”

Justin’s three siblings now stay with his aunt and grandmother, along with his three cousins.

“It’s been an adjustment for them. Just you know, being without their mother, being without their brother. It’s been a big adjustment not being in their home,” she said.

It’s the community support helping this family get through the tough times.

“I don’t know how we would be doing if we didn’t have that support. It’d be a lot tougher, a lot harder to go through,” said Aguilar.

Through it all, this family stays strong for their tough son, cousin, nephew, brother, and friend.

Steven said: “One child has brought this community together in a very powerful, powerful way... just an amazing way.”

Justin’s mom says he had a slight setback Thursday in surgery as more of his scalp had to be shaved off, extending his stay in Augusta before eventually getting moved to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta in three weeks.