When you see the X-ray, you cannot help but cringe and hope something like this never, ever, happens to you. A three-foot long steel shaft with stainless steel tips, shot from a spear-gun, perfectly stuck in a teenager’s skull, entering one inch above his right eye, through his brain, and exiting the back of his head.
"You could feel the tip under the skin on the posterior part of the skull," said Trauma Care surgeon Dr. George Garcia says
And 16-year-old Yasser López not only survived, but doctors say he stands a good chance of making a near-full recovery.
Doctors stress how lucky he is. López begins rehab this week. And the surgeons successfully pulled off an amazingly complicated and delicate spear removal.
According to the boy’s friend, the two teens were at a lake near their Miami-area home, preparing to do some spear-fishing. Spearguns are typically fired by an elastic-powered trigger and are increasingly popular among free-divers, snorkelers and scuba divers hunting all types of fish. The friend says when he was loading the spear, it accidentally fired, shooting the spear into the front of López’s skull. Police say that appears to be the case.
When paramedics came to the rescue, they used clamps to immobilize the boy’s skull and the spear, then wheeled him to a helicopter. At Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital, doctors used a rebarb cutting tool to shorten the length of the spear, so López’s head could fit into the CT Scan.
That’s where they discovered that the spear had pierced through López’s right hemisphere without hitting any major blood vessels, sparing the left hemisphere, which affects speech.
Dr. Ross Bullock and his trauma neurosurgeon team determined the tip of the spear inside López's head was actually a screw tip.
"The most important thing is to resist that temptation to pull the thing out," Bullock said, because simply pulling out the spear the way it came in is almost always fatal. "It was possible for us to figure out a strategy during the operation to be able to unscrew the tip of the spear, instead of having to get this whole spear dragged out through his brain."
López remains in serious condition and doctors expect his rehabilitation to take three months, but his words and sentences are already pretty easy to understand.
"He says he's not having pain,” Bullock said. "He's worried about the fact he can't use his left side properly."
The last thing López can remember from the day he was injured is being at the lake with his friend getting ready to spear-fish.
"He woke up with a spear in his head," said Bullock. "He probably won't ever regain those memories."
Doctors expect him to make a near-full recovery.
Phil Keating is a Fox News National Correspondent.