Teen survives speargun shot to the head

2012-06-20 14:01


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Washington - Florida doctors are hopeful for the recovery of a 16-year-old boy, who miraculously survived being shot through the head with a fishing spear.

Yasser Lopez, aged 16, was fishing with friends in south Florida when one of them was loading a speargun that misfired, shooting Lopez through the forehead, 5cm above his right eye.

The spear passed through the right side of his brain, penetrated the rear of his skull and exited part way from the back of his head. Most of the 1m spear was left protruding from the front of the teenager's head.

"It's a striking injury that you don't see every day - a patient arriving awake and speaking, with a 3-foot [1m] spear through his head," said George Garcia, assistant professor of surgery at the University of Miami's Jackson Memorial Hospital, where Lopez was treated.

"The first obstacle is probably to not allow yourself to get distracted by the obvious kind of sensational injury. The second obstacle was to keep him calm and still so we could stabilise the spear."

A rebar cutter, provided by Miami firefighters, was used to shorten the spear so that x-rays and other scans could be made.

In serious condition

Surgeons eventually worked for three hours to remove the projectile.

"We are very optimistic about his healing. It has been 11 days since he had been injured, and young people rehabilitate from injuries like that incredibly well," neurologist Ross Bullock said.

"The amazing thing is that the boy is able to speak a little now. He is saying a few words, short sentences, and he is out of bed."

Lopez's parents kept the news private until this week. The young man remains in serious condition and is expected to stay in a rehabilitation hospital for the next two to three months.

"There is always a huge risk of death with a case like this," Bullock said. "[The spear] miraculously missed the main blood vessels of the brain and also missed the vital deep seated structures of the brain."

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