This weekend, a 10-year-old boy in Harrisonville, Missouri, fell from a tree house after he was attacked by a swarm of yellow jackets that were nesting in the structure—and that was just the beginning of the horror.
When Xavier Cunningham fell to the ground on Saturday, he landed face-first on a barbecue skewer that was sticking out of the grass. According to Cunningham’s father, the metal rod had been found in the yard earlier by Cunningham and his friends, who stuck it in the ground so that no one would step on it. Instead, the skewer pierced Cunningham’s cheek, punctured his skull, and went through his head.
“I heard screaming, and I went running down the stairs,” Cunningham’s mother, Gabrielle Miller, told the Kansas City Star. “He came in and he had this thing just sticking out.” The other end of the skewer extended about half a foot out from Cunningham’s face.
According to Miller, once they left for the hospital, the boy said, “I’m dying, mom.” Miraculously, he was wrong. A medical team was able to safely remove the skewer from his face.
“This thing had spared the eye, spared the brain, spared the spinal cord,” Koji Ebersole, director of endovascular neurosurgery at The University of Kansas Health System, told the Star. “But the major concern was the blood vessels in the neck.”
Scans showed that the spike had missed major vessels. “You couldn’t draw it up any better,” said Ebersole. “It was one in a million for it to pass 5 or 6 inches through the front of the face to the back and not have hit these things.”
Here’s a video of Ebersole discussing the operation:
The surgery was further complicated by the square shape of the skewer, but the team was able to pull it out without causing any other damage.
Ebersole estimated about a hundred people were involved in saving Cunningham. He expects the boy will have a complete or near-complete recovery.
Cunnigham’s family set up a GoFoundMe to help pay medical costs.