MIAMI (CBS4) – For the first time, South Florida is seeing some stunning images of how a 16-year-old boy was injured when a spear from a spear gun entered his head in a freak accident.
Doctors from the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Hospital and the Army Trauma Training Center revealed that it was a miracle that the spear missed all the main blood vessels in Yasser Lopez’s brain. That alone may have saved the life of the teen from Southwest Miami-Dade.
The doctors displayed a montage of initial x-rays of the Lopez’s head. He was transported with three feet of a spear protruding from his forehead. It took three hours of surgery to remove it.
Miami-Dade Police said Lopez and a 15-year-old friend were hanging out by a lake near Southwest 51st Street and 138th Avenue on June 7th. They said Lopez’s friend was loading a speargun when it accidentally deployed, hitting Lopez in the head.
“It was about one inch above the right eye,” said Dr. George Garcia, an assistant professor of surgery at the Army Trauma Training Center. “You could feel the skin and the spear penetrated through the back of his skull.”
“My initial reaction was how striking an injury this was,” said Garcia. “It’s not every day that someone is brought in and speaking with three feet of a spear protruding. The first obstacle was to not allow yourself to be distracted by this sort of injury. The second obstacle was keeping him still and avoiding any more damage in the brain. Then there was the challenge of how to cut part of the spear and fit the patient in the scanner.”
“Initially in the hospital he tried to sit up and became very agitated,” said Garcia.
Garcia credited paramedics with preventing further damage to Lopez’s brain by keeping him still.
“The best thing the paramedics did and that was most important was to stabilize and not move the patient,” said Garcia. “They kept his head still.”
Doctors used a rebar cutter from Miami-Dade Fire rescue and vise-gripes or locking pliers to stabilize the spear.
“In his case what we needed to do is make sure none of the blood vessels had been injured,” said Dr. Ross Bullock, a neurosurgeon and professor of neurological surgery and clinical director of the neurotrauma program at UM/Jackson. “So to do that we had to have an angiogram test.”
Doctors were also challenged by having to remove the tip of a spear because it had an unscrewable tip.
“The things that allowed it to go relatively well so far was that number one, it was the non-dominant hemisphere on the right side instead of the left side of the brain, number one; and number two, miraculously, it missed all the main blood vessels in the brain. It also missed the deep seated structures in the brain.”
Lopez is in serious condition and can speak.
“The amazing thing is that he has been able to speak right now with short sentences and to make his needs felt,” said Bullock. “His words are amazingly easy to understand. He can for example say that he does not have pain, but he is worried about the fact that he can’t use his left side properly.
Dr. Jose Sanchez of UM/Jackson said there would also be a number of challenges as Lopez was being moved out of the intensive care unit on Monday and then into “step-down services” and eventually into rehabilitation.
“One of the challenges is all the balances of the body and the brain and the trauma from being injured there and all the imbalances of the brain,” said Sanchez.
Doctors said Lopez could be at Jackson Memorial Hospital for up to three months and does face a risk of infection. They said he faces a small risk of infection.
Doctors also said he may not need any more surgery and they are optimistic about his recovery.