Teen Boy Miraculously Survives After 10-Inch Knife Impales His Face

By | June 19, 2019
  • Eli Gregg, a 15-year-old Kansas boy, is making a miraculous recovery after a 10-inch knife impaled his face.
  • Doctors on Gregg’s medical team from the University of Kansas Health System were particularly concerned about his carotid artery, a major blood vessel that supplies blood to the brain.
  • Doctors weigh in on why Gregg’s recovery is so remarkable.

    Doctors say a Kansas teenager is lucky to be alive after a 10-inch knife impaled his face. Eli Gregg, 15, was playing outside his family’s house on Thursday when the accident happened, according to a video released by the University of Kansas Health System, per the Associated Press.

    While it’s not clear how the blade ended up in his face, his mom Jimmy Russell said that she heard her son scream and found him with the knife sticking out of his face, just below his eye. She called 911.

    Russell said she thought her son had a “normal” injury at first. “Then he came to the door, and when he opened the door it was blood and he had a piece of metal in his face,” she said. “It looked pretty grim, it was scary.”

    Once he got medical care, doctors told Russell that Gregg could lose sight in one eye or have a stroke, depending on how they would be able to remove the blade.

    X-rays shared by Gregg’s medical team show the knife going into his skull at the bottom of his brain. One of Gregg’s doctors, Koji Ebersole, MD, said that they were particularly concerned about his carotid artery, a major blood vessel that supplies blood to the brain. Gregg is also very lucky, Dr. Ebersole said. The knife “could not have had a pound more force on it and him survive that event,” he explained, adding, “I don’t think he would have survived it.”

    Gregg is now “doing great,” Dr. Ebersole said. “He had some bleeding from the level of the skin but the blood vessel looks like it’s perfectly intact. The brain is functioning perfectly, he had the breathing tube removed, he’s wide awake, talking to us. I think he’s going to heal just fine.”

    Russell calls her son’s recovery “a miracle,” noting that Gregg says he’s going to “stay away from sharp objects” in the future.

    Other experts agree that Gregg’s recovery is truly remarkable. “Any injury involving the carotid artery is immediately life threatening,” says David Gatz, MD, an emergency medicine physician at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. “This is one of the most important blood vessels in the human body, responsible for delivering large amounts of blood and oxygen to the brain.”

    An injury to the carotid artery can cause someone to lose large amounts of blood very quickly, and have a high risk of injury or even death, Dr. Gatz says.

    Ultimately, this kind of injury “really depends on what the blade hits when it goes in,” says Nicholas Kman, MD, an emergency medicine physician at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. Part of the reason these kind of injuries are so hard to treat is because you can’t apply pressure to a blood vessel in that location to try to stop the bleeding, he says.

    If you ever find yourself or one of your loved ones in this kind of situation, it’s important to leave the blade in place, Dr. Kman says. “It should always be removed in the operating room,” he adds. A blade can cut other things when it’s removed, making it crucial that it’s done slowly and properly, Dr. Kman says.

    During surgery, doctors will go down to the tip of the knife, remove the knife, and then look for damage to arteries, says Garni Barkhoudarian, MD, a neurosurgeon and assistant professor of neurosurgery and neuroscience at the John Wayne Cancer Institute at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif. If there’s bleeding, they’ll stop it and may even need to give blood if the patient loses too much.

    Overall, Dr. Kman also emphasizes that Gregg was very lucky. “It really is miraculous,” he says.

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