yasel-lopez

Teenager shot with spear through head survives

June 19, 2012 at 10:44 AM ET

Yasel Lopez, 16, was fishing with a friend in Miami when their three-foot spear gun went off unexpectedly, piercing Lopez through his head. Doctors are calling his survival from the accident, nearly two weeks ago, a miracle.

The gun went off unexpectedly when the teenagers were loading it with a spear, sending it straight into Lopez's skull, Tamron Hall reported on TODAY Monday. The force of the impact was so strong it knocked him into the water. Acting quickly, his friend called 911 and Lopez was soon airlifted to Miami's Jackson Memorial Hospital where doctors raced to save him. 

Doctors revealed details Monday about Lopez's ordeal, and how they worked to save his life. “We used a high-speed drill to drill the bone at either end to create an opening through which we could remove the spear,” one of the doctors told reporters. They first had to cut the spear to prevent it from moving and allow doctors to do tests. After the spear was cut, doctors said they were able to plan the surgery: “We were able to position him laying with his left side down, right side up, and then we were able to open a large incision."

Dr. George Garcia, who helped to save Lopez's life, said that Lopez was awake and interacting with hospital staff when he arrived, though he became agitated and panicky. “We didn't know if that was a result of the injury to his brain or if he was just scared or in a lot of pain.” Dr. Garcia said that that the fact that Lopez was lucid throughout gave the doctors confidence the teenager would survive. 

Calling Lopez a “pretty incredible, very lucky boy,” Dr. Garcia said, “I expected he would do well because he was awake from the injury...The fact that he was speaking to the paramedics in route and stuff made me hopeful from the beginning.”

Lopez, currently in recovery, was only able to speak to doctors in short sentences as of Monday. He may never remember the incident because it appears that he could be suffering from post-traumatic amnesia. 

Not one but three miracles kept Lopez alive: The side through which the spear pierced his head, the fact that it managed to miss important blood vessels and that it avoided damaging vital brain structures all contributed to his survival. 

“It's just incredibly fortunate it’s a constellation of circumstances that came through in this amazing, freaky way," said a doctor.

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