Doctors optimistic for teen after spear through head
MIAMI (WSVN) -- X-rays reveal what doctors saw after a South Florida teen miraculously survived being shot in the head with a speargun.
Sixteen-year-old Yasser Lopez is on Day 11 of his recovery after a three-foot spear shot straight through his skull on June 7.
Air rescue transported Lopez to Jackson Memorial Hospital securely strapped to a backboard. "It's a striking injury," said Dr. George Garcia, trauma surgeon at JMH. "It's something you don't see everyday to have a patient arrive awake and speaking with a three-foot spear through his head."
Police say that as Lopez and a friend were getting ready to go fishing, the speargun accidentally went off. "It was about one inch above his right eye and then straight through," said Garcia. "You could feel the tip underneath his skin on the posterior part of his skull."
Thankfully, no one made what doctors say is the most common mistake. "The most important thing is to resist that temptation to pull the thing out," said Dr. Ross Bullock, neurosurgeon at JMH.
An X-ray scan of Lopez' brain shows the stainless steel spear after rescuers had to use a re-bar tool to cut down 18 inches so that it could fit in the scanner.
Bullock and his trauma neurosurgery team determined the tip of the spear inside Lopez's head was actually a screw tip. "It was possible for us to figure out a strategy during the operation to be able to unscrew the tip of the spear, inside of having to get this whole spear dragged out through his brain," said Bullock.
"We quickly got our anesthesiology colleagues to sedate him and intubate him and put a breathing tube in and then chemically paralyzed him so he would remain still, the spear wouldn't move," said Garcia.
Miraculously the three-foot shaft somehow missed every major blood vessel in Lopez' brain and pierced the right, not left side of his brain, sparing his speech. "His words are actually, amazingly easy to understand," said Bullock. "For example he says he's not having pain, he's worried about the fact he can't use his left-side properly."
After only one surgery to take out the spear in his forehead, Lopez' brain only has a small bit of swelling. "Almost a normal looking CT scan," said Bullock.
According to the doctors, Lopez has no recollection of the day he was shot. "He woke up-- the story, the version we got was that he woke up with a spear in his head, " said Garcia. "He probably won't ever regain those memories."
On Monday, Lopez was released from the Intensive Care Unit and put in another division of the hospital. Lopez will have about two to three months of rehabilitation and is expected to make a full recovery. The only possible lasting effect of the incident could be clumsiness of his left arm. "He's going into rehab very soon within sometime this week," said Bullock. "And young people rehabilitate from injuries like this incredibly well. So, we are very upbeat about his potential for recovery."
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