Get the latest from TODAY

Sign up for our newsletter
 / Updated  / Source:
By Gilma Avalos

Sixteen-year-old Yasser Lopez was overcome with tears when he was reunited with the woman whose quick thinking may have saved his life.

Lopez was accidentally shot in the head with a spear by a friend in June. Doctors said that if he had pulled the spear out, he would have died.

But thanks to Astrid Cardoza – a complete stranger – that didn't happen.

"I just hold his hand and I say you can't (pull the spear out). And he told me ‘please don't let me die,’” she told TODAY. “And I said you don't going to die."

Lopez was spear fishing with a friend, using a 3-foot powered spear gun, when somehow the gun went off, piercing Lopez in the head. His fishing buddy called 911.

"A spear gun just went through my friend's head,” he said, before telling authorities that they were on a lake and urging them to come help.

Lopez was rushed to Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Ryder Trauma Center in Miami – still conscious, and talking. He says now that he recalls some of the episode.

"I remember being in the ambulance, when they picked me up, I remember telling them to take it out,” he said, adding, “I could feel it inside the head."

His injury astonished Ryder’s experienced medical team.

"It had gone from side to side of the skull, front to back. Now that’s mighty unusual. I'd never seen that – exactly that combination,” said Dr. Ross Bullock, the director of neurotrauma.

That combination was particularly lucky. The spear was on the right side of his brain, one inch above his right eye – miraculously missing all the main blood vessels in the brain.

After a surgery that lasted more than three hours, doctors were able to remove the spear from the teen's head.

Lopez, who has a scar on his forehead, has a long road to recovery ahead that includes months of therapy. But he is optimistic, and says he may even go fishing again.

"If I do ever spear fish again, very safely and with a grownup near me,” he said.