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article imageMiami teen recovering after being speared through brain

By Larry Clifton     Jun 19, 2012 in Health
Miami - Sixteen-year-old Yasser Lopez doesn’t remember the elastic-powered spear gun launching its pointy, steel spear toward his head.
A three-foot long metal shaft with stainless steel tips entered one inch above the boy’s right eye; the tip passed through his skull and lodged just under the scalp on back of his head.
The X-rays are at once dreadful and amazing considering the victim is expected to live and recover much of his health and mobility, according to wptv.com.
"You could feel the tip under the skin on the posterior part of the skull," said Trauma Care surgeon Dr. George Garcia, who treated the boy 11 days ago when he was admitted.
The boy’s friend and he were at a lake near their Miami-area homes preparing to do some spear-fishing when the accident took place. Spear guns are popular among free-divers, snorkelers and scuba divers hunting many types of fish. The friend, also 16, says when he was loading the spear, it accidentally fired, shooting the spear into the front of Lopez’s skull. Police say that appears to be the case.
When paramedics arrived at the scene, they used clamps to immobilize the boy’s skull and the spear. The rescue crew wheeled him to a helicopter for a short flight to Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital. Doctors there used a rebar cutting tool to shorten the length of the spear, so the victim’s head would fit into a CT scan.
Doctors say Lopez is extremely lucky because the spear penetrated the right hemisphere without hitting any major blood vessels, sparing the left hemisphere, which affects speech.
Dr. Ross Bullock and his trauma neurosurgeon team discovered the “tip” of the spear inside the young man'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."
"He's worried about the fact he can't use his left side properly," said Bullock, adding his patient didn't complain much about pain.
The only thing Lopez remembers about the day 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 Lopez to make a near-full recovery.
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