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Teen lives to tell about spear-inflicted brain injury

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Do you believe in miracles? I bet Yasser Lopez does. The 16-year-old boy survived a traumatic brain injury after a three-foot-long spear penetrated his skull. An X-ray showed that the spear missed his right eye by about an inch.

According to CBS News, Lopez and a friend were preparing to go spearfishing when the gun went off as Lopez’s friend tried to load it.

Paramedics were forced to sedate Lopez as the shock wore off, and he began to thrash around during the helicopter flight to the hospital, said the Miami Herald.

Once at the hospital, a tactical rescue team had to cut the spear with steel cutters, so they could slide Lopez into the CT machine. He then underwent a three-hour operation to remove the weapon, which was barbed in order to stick inside the fish.

Doctors attribute three factors to his survival.

First, the spear did not puncture any of the brain’s major blood vessels. Second, it entered the right side of Lopez’s brain, which has fewer blood vessels and brain functions. Although, a neurosurgeon told CBS News, if the spear shot diagonally through the right side of his head, it would’ve killed him. If it had shot through the left side, Lopez would have had trouble remembering, reasoning, thinking, and speaking. Lastly, the spear did not pierce the midline,where many major blood vessels exist.

Lopez can speak in short sentences but cannot feel his left side and does not remember the accident, according to CBS News. He’s expected to be hospitalized for three months, where doctors can monitor him and prevent infection.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that each year more than 1.7 million people suffer traumatic brain injury, a condition caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head — or a penetrating head injury like Lopez’s – that disrupts the brain’s normal functioning. The most common causes of traumatic brain injury include falls, car accidents, collisions, and assault.

What can you do to protect yourself, your children, and family members? Follow these safety tips provided by the CDC:

  • Always wear a seatbelt when driving or being driven
  • Buckle your child in a car seat and follow directions on how to strap him or her in
  • Don’t drive under the influence
  • Wear a helmet while bike- and/or motorcycle-riding
  • Make living areas safe for children
  • Be sure that playground surfaces are made of shock-absorbing material like sand or rubber

Be safe!