As doctors like to say, “Time is brain,” meaning that every minute a brain injury goes untreated, more brain cells die. Swift, effective treatment can save a live and, if circumstances are right, prevent catastrophic brain injury.
With that in mind, we’d like to introduce you to the heroes of the day: trauma surgeon Dr. George Garcia, neurosurgeon Dr. Russ Bullock, and physician’s assistant Leo Harris. These medical professionals—and their team of nurses, anesthesiologists, and other workers at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, Florida—saved 16-year-old Yasser Lopez from a dramatic and potentially lethal injury.
According to an article on Sun-Sentinel.com, Lopez had been on his way to go fishing when a friend accidentally discharged a spear gun. The spear entered the teen’s head about an inch above his right eye, and stopped just millimeters short of piercing the skin on the back of his head. The medical team burst into action and not only saved Lopez’s life, but worked quickly enough to preserve nearly all his brain function.
[Dr. George] Garcia said that he has seen some intense injuries in his career as a trauma surgeon, but he acknowledged that this case was “pretty unique because the spear was so long.” He said there was no time to get distracted by the sensational scene, and his team shifted into high gear of their “regimented” response routine.
After verifying that the patient had no additional injuries beside the obvious one, the first challenge was how to get Lopez into the doughnut-shaped CT scan machine with a three-foot spear protruding from his forehead. The paramedics had done an incredible job of getting the patient to the hospital without disturbing the shaft, said Garcia, but given the lucky — and precarious — trajectory of the spear through Lopez’s brain, any movement could have proven fatal.
The circumstances were in Lopez’s favor. His surgeon said that there was a 1 in 10 million chance that the spear would have gone in the one right direction to do limited damage: No major blood vessels were severed, and portions of the brain that control speech and movement were spared. Just two weeks after his injury, the only symptom Lopez reports is a bit of weakness in the left side of his body.
“There is a good chance that he will have a perfect recovery,” Bullock said. “Young people have this amazing capacity for the uninjured part of the brain to take over functions controlled by the damaged part.”
It’s amazing how such a potentially devastating injury can be resolved so successfully. In the race against time to save brain, these Miami doctors and professionals won big time.
To read the full story in the Sun Sentinel, click here: