A typical walk of Ward 1 last week to promote her political campaign almost turned deadly for Sharon Ahearn, who is seeking election as Ward 1 councilwoman. She was bitten by a dog and the wounds became severely infected.
“There’s no joke about it – she almost died,” said Ahearn’s mother, Jean Jesse. “The infection was so high they told her she would have been lucky to have lost her leg because it spread so far.”
The incident occurred shortly after 2 p.m. on July 25. Ahearn was going door-to-door introducing herself when she unfortunately came across a home located on Thurman Street, which housed an unwelcoming dog.
“When the girl opened the door, out came this dog,” said Ahearn, who described the animal as a 25- to 30-pound terrier mix. “It happened so fast. It jumped right up on my skirt and when the kid pulled the dog away, I noticed it put a hole in my skirt. Then, he came up and lunged at me and dug into me.”
The dog sunk its teeth into the skin just above her left knee, leaving five small, but deep, wounds. To be safe, she visited Statcare Urgent Care at 400 Bald Hill Road.
While the wounds didn’t require stitches, medical officials informed her they were significantly deep. They patched her up and told her if the wounds appeared red in color 24 hours after the bite, she would need to follow up as soon as possible.
By Friday, a good portion of Ahearn’s leg was “beet red” and very hot to the touch. She visited a doctor who advised her to go to the emergency room immediately. That’s when she stopped by Kent Hospital and was admitted.
“The prescription they gave me at Statcare didn’t work so they put me on an IV [at Kent],” she said. “Doctors said if I waited one more day I would have been deathly ill or it could have killed me.”
While she isn’t sure of the status of the dog, a police report was filed and an Animal Control representative interviewed Ahearn last week. She said she also spoke to the dog’s owner who apologized and said, “I usually knock on my door before I walk in so they can hold the dog.”
Ahearn said, “I said to myself, ‘Hmm. Is this dog always mean?’”
Despite the situation, Ahearn, who served in the Air Force for 32 years and was honorably discharged due to a back injury as a Master Sergeant, is in high spirits and is grateful for having support from her family and friends. Moreover, she is looking forward to the upcoming election. She faces incumbent Republican Steven Colantuono.
“He is a nice guy,” said Ahearn, who is running on the Democratic ticket. “There’s nothing bad about him, but it may be time for a change and get some different ideas.”
If she wins the seat, she said she plans to make Warwick a better place by focusing on improving neighborhood watch programs, helping military veterans and listening to the needs of constituents.
“We have our issues but I talk to folks and say, ‘Give me ideas and tell me what you want,’” she said. “I know the general problems with sewers and taxes, but if anyone wants to give me any ideas, feel free. They can email me at email@example.com.”
So far, she’s held two fundraisers in Ward 1, the first being a breakfast at Paula’s Kitchen in June, and the second a steak fry at the VFW on Washington Street in July. Now, she’s planning a spaghetti dinner, which will take place at the Firefighter’s Hall on Warwick Avenue.
Ahearn was born and raised in West Warwick and has lived in Warwick for nearly 20 years. She is the mother of two children, Steven DiPalma, 31, and Christina Zinno, 27.
Ahearn was scheduled for an ultrasound yesterday to make sure the infection is properly healing. She was happy to be sent home for 4 p.m. In time, she’ll revisit the streets to meet the people of Ward 1.
“Don’t get me wrong, this hurts but it’s not going to stop me,” Ahearn said. “It’s just a bump in the road. When they say I’m good to go, I’ll be back out there.”