TODAY | August 18, 2012
>>> a florida teenager is lucky to be alive today. he was recently on a spear fishing trip with a friend when he was shot through the head by a 3-foot spear . we'll speak with him exclusively in just a moment, but first, the latest from nbc's kerry sanders .
>> here, over there, leads to the rock where i was fishing.
>> reporter: 16-year-old yasser lopez visits the lake where he nearly lost his life.
>> i was almost dead in this water. for a simple fishing trip.
>> reporter: he was spear fishing with a friend using a 3-foot, gas-powered speargun, when somehow, the gun went off, striking lopez in the head. his friend called 911.
>> the speargun just went through my friend's head. we're on a lake, a lake. please come.
>> reporter: lopez was rushed to the hospital, the spear through the skull.
>> it went front to back. that's mighty unusual. i've never seen that, exactly that combination.
>> reporter: doctors say a series of miracles helped lopez survive. the spear missed important blood vessels and vital structures of the brain. in a delicate surgery that lasted more than four hours, they were able to remove the spear from the teenager's head.
>> okay, grab the bar.
>> reporter: now, lopez faces months of therapy. the accident left him with partial paralysis on the left side of his body.
>> right there, like that.
>> reporter: and memories of what happened are now slowly starting to come back.
>> i remember being in the ambulance when they picked me up. i was telling them, take the spear out, feel it inside the head, so i wanted them to take it out.
>> reporter: doctors say if he had pulled the spear out, he would have died, but that didn't happen, thanks to the kindness of a stranger.
>> right here. half of his body was in the water.
>> reporter: astrid cardoza was near the lake that day. she heard yelling and ran over to help, telling lopez not to pull on the spear .
>> i just hold his hand and i said, you can. and he told me, please, don't let me die. and i says, you're not going to die.
>> reporter: lopez and his family were overcome with emotion during a reunion with cardoza at the accident scene.
>> oh, my god, he looks terrific!
>> reporter: lopez knows the road to recovery is going to be tough, but he's not giving up. he says he may even go fishing again some day.
>> if i do ever spear fish again, very safely and with a grown-up near me.
>> reporter: for "today," kerry sanders , nbc news, miami.
>> yasser lopez and his mother are here for an exclusive interview. good morning to both of you.
>> good morning.
>> you're making progress and you're feeling good?
>> i understand from kerry's piece, slowly the memories are coming back from what happened that day? what do you remember?
>> i remember holding a fish that my friend had caught, then following it to the water, then just seeing the spear in my head.
>> you could see it in your head.
>> yeah, i could see it. i could see it.
>> that spear through your head. did you realize what had happened?
>> you get the phone call from your husband that your only son, your only child was in this terrible accident.
>> we got to the hospital. there we found yasser with the speargun in his head. oh, my god, i am so --
>> how did you keep standing? i can't imagine you didn't collapse.
>> i thought my son is going to die, mm-hmm.
>> and doctors told you to still talk to him, even though he was unconscious.
>> yeah. the doctor said you can tell something, he can hear you. i said to him here, yasser , mama and daddy are here, everything is going to be okay. that said, we are very frustrated with that.
>> when you look at him now and he's making progress with physical therapy , he's smiling, you probably didn't think you would get to this point. you thought you would lose him.
>> it's incredible.
>> it's incredible.
>> it's incredible, yeah.
>> yasser , do you feel like you're a miracle walking?
>> and i imagine around the neighborhood, everyone wants to talk with you about how you survived this. you're one tough man, young man. do you feel that way?
>> we're very happy to see you, and i know you're going to get better every day. thank you.