Surgeons unscrewed a steel rod that was impaled through the heart of an 8-year-old boy during a fall from a roof.
Justin Stiner asked for some ice and wanted to play Nintendo on Tuesday after waking up from surgery, doctors said."He probably just thinks this is kind of a slight inconvenience in his life," said trauma surgeon Dr. Michael Esser.
The 4-foot-long, 1/2-inch-thick threaded bar used to reinforce concrete was literally unscrewed from the boy's neck and torso Monday in a 2 1/2-hour operation at University Medical Center. Eighteen inches of the rod had penetrated his body.
Justin was listed in critical condition. Esser said the heart wounds should heal fully, and although the boy's severed jugular vein was tied off, other veins can provide the needed circulation. The jugular vein carries blood back from the head to the heart.
The 4-foot-10, 86-pound third-grader from Sierra Vista fell onto the rod while playing with friends on the roof of a house Monday morning.
He was suspended two feet off the ground for about 20 minutes, alert the whole time, while paramedics cut the rod, which pierced him just below the breastbone.
Justin, who was taken the 80 miles from Sierra Vista to Tucson by helicopter, neither panicked or screamed, and on arrival "wanted to know if I was going to remove it. He was very cooperative," Dr. Phillip Richemont said.
Esser and Richemont said the rod went through the right side of the heart, which has about one-third the pressure of the left side.
"He would have bled to death" if it had been on the left side, Esser said. "He's one lucky kid. It just didn't hit any arterial structures."
Richemont said surgeons were stunned to find that the rod had pierced the heart in two places and divided the jugular vein. "But yet it didn't bleed. It's amazing," Richemont said, calling it a one-in-a-million occurrence.
During the operation, the heart seemingly "contracted down between the threads," cutting off bleeding, Richemont said.
The outcome, Esser said, "makes us feel good. We have a lot that don't make it."