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May 21, 2009

BehindTheMedspeak: 'Drill, baby, drill!' — Australian GP performs emergency craniotomy with a DeWalt drill from the hospital maintenance closet — and saves boy's life


Long story shortened: Last Friday in Maryborough, a small town in Australia, 12-year-old Nicholas Rossi fell off his bike and banged his head. Taken to the local hospital to get checked out, he soon began having seizures and bouts of unconciousness.

The local GP, realizing that the delay getting him to Melbourne for specialized surgery to relieve what was clearly intracranial bleeding could result in permanent brain damage or death, found a DeWalt power drill in the hospital's maintenance closet and, under direction over the phone from a Melbourne neurosurgeon, proceeded to drill a hole in the boy's skull to relieve the pressure and evacuate the blood. Nicholas was flown to Melbourne's Royal Children's Hospital and released four days later (this past Tuesday) on his 13th birthday, without any apparent permanent sequelae.

Here's Arjun Ramachandran's story from yesterday's Sydney Morning Herald with the details.


Doctor uses home drill to save boy's life


A country doctor has saved the life of a 13-year-old boy by using a household drill to drill a hole in the boy's skull after a bicycle accident.

Nicholas Rossi fell off his bike late on Friday while riding outside a friend's house in Maryborough, 170 kilometres north-west of Melbourne. He was not wearing a helmet.

He hit his head on the pavement and was unconscious for about 30 seconds, but recovered and appeared to be fine, his father, Michael Rossi, said.

But his mother, Karen, a nurse, noticed a lump on Nicholas's head and decided to take him to the district hospital, where he experienced spasms and periods of unconsciousness.

GP Rob Carson recognised the symptoms of bleeding on the brain and realised he had just minutes to drill a hole to relieve the pressure or the boy would die, The Australian reported today.

The condition was the same that killed actress Natasha Richardson, wife of Hollywood actor Liam Neeson, earlier this year following a ski fall.

"Basically what happened was Dr Carson came and saw us and his words were: 'I've got one shot at this and one shot only — I'm going to have to drill into Nicholas's skull,' " Mr Rossi told 2UE.

Dr Carson had said: "If it works he's going to reach Melbourne in a lot better condition than what he would if we don't do it."

As Dr Carson powered up a household DeWalt drill taken from a maintenance room, Mr Rossi said his wife probably had a better handle on what was about to happen than he did.

"We felt numb because ... it's a surreal type of experience," Mr Rossi said.

"We could hear the shaver shaving his hair, could hear the drill drill, hear the suction doing its job."

Over the telephone, Melbourne neurosurgeon David Wallace walked Dr Carson through the procedure.

Dr Carson drilled a hole just below the bruise mark, above Nicholas's ear, until a blood clot came out. He used forceps to increase the hole to about a centimetre in diameter, then inserted a drainage tube to keep the blood flowing out of the boy's skull.

Nicholas was flown to Melbourne's Royal Children's Hospital an hour later and was released on Tuesday — his 13th birthday.

Nicholas was recovering well and had a very good party to celebrate his birthday, Mr Rossi said.

He paid tribute to all the Maryborough medical staff who had helped his son, and urged other parents to be more vigilant.

"You can't watch them 24 hours a day but make sure they wear their helmets," he said.


I wonder if DeWalt — at least in Australia — is going to use this in an ad campaign.

I know I would.

[via Jerry Young and Red Ferret]

May 21, 2009 at 12:01 PM | Permalink


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Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported it as a Black and Decker drill...


but I doubt the lad with the bleeding brain said ´hey don´t come near me with that DeWalt, I´m a Black and Decker Boy´.

Posted by: gina | May 22, 2009 1:20:33 AM

It was a DeWalt! I remembered hearing the radio interview with the father here in NZ and the doctor having said "Get the Black & Decker". I suppose the ad campaign could be "Good thing they got him the DeWalt instead". Of course, then they'd get sued when some idiot uses the drill on his kid....

Posted by: Eric Crampton | May 21, 2009 9:51:37 PM

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