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Video: Boy survives knife in head

TODAY contributor
updated 4/16/2008 9:01:56 AM ET 2008-04-16T13:01:56

In the history of weaponry, the dull-edged butter knife hasn’t ranked high on the list of weapons of choice. But don’t tell that to Tyler Hemmert.

The 11-year-old Vancouver boy needed doctors to remove a butter knife from his head on Sunday. He says he and friend Nate Leach were sitting on a park bench when another boy became angry with them and hurled the knife.

Nate ducked. Tyler didn’t.

“I freaked out when I could actually see the handle,” Tyler told TODAY co-host Meredith Vieira on Wednesday. “But I just tried to tell myself to stay calm and stuff.”

Four inches of the blade was lodged between Tyler’s scalp and skull, above his right ear. When Leach ran to tell Hemmert’s father, he reportedly bolted from his house without even putting on his shoes.

Understandably, Tyler's family had a sharp reaction.

“It’s kind of a freaky thing to see a knife handle sticking out of your son’s head,” Brian Hemmert said.

Difficult choice
Upon reaching his son, Brian Hemmert’s first reaction was somewhat automatic.

“The first thing I wanted to do was just pull it out of his head and give him a big hug,” he said. “But I was afraid to even touch him. I knew better. I’ve seen a couple of these [medical] shows, so ... leave it alone and let the pros deal with it.”

Tyler was rushed to Southwest Washington Medical Center, where doctors found that the knife miraculously had only grazed his skull.

This x-ray shows how the blade of the butter knife grazed Tyler Hemmert's skull.
“The CAT scan showed that indeed it was just under his scalp,” Dr. Andy Reed told NBC News reporter John Larson. “There were no fractures obvious to the skull.”

Tyler, who equated the pain to a bee sting, left the hospital with just five stitches.

“I’m feeling fine right now,” he said. “It doesn’t hurt right now at all.”

With the scar has also come some notoriety for Tyler. Some friends, he says, have even called him “Butterhead.”

“Pretty much everybody’s talking about it and stuff,” he told Vieira. “They’re like, ‘Oh, my God, it actually happened to you. I can’t believe it.’”

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Proper punishment?
Police interviewed the boy who threw the knife, and local juvenile authorities will reportedly decide whether charges will be pursued.

In Sept. 2005, an Omaha, Neb., first-grader was suspended from school for merely carrying a butter knife in his book bag.

Brian Hemmert said he hopes there will be some major discipline for the boy who assaulted his son.

“I don’t really want to see the kid jailed or hung from the yardarms or anything,” he said. “But he definitely needs something, some consequences, some sort of anger management classes. Something. I don’t want to see him punished, per se. But I do want something taken care of on this.”

Tyler, a sixth-grader at Discovery Middle School, said he has not spoken with the boy who threw the knife since the altercation.

“I’ve heard that he’s wanted to come over my house to apologize and stuff,” he said. “But I haven’t seen him since.”

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