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Boy Impaled By Rod Improving Hospital Official Says

November 15, 1990 GMT

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) _ An 8-year-old boy impaled on a half-inch-thick steel rod was upgraded to serious condition Wednesday, just two days after the thick spike punched through his heart and destroyed one jugular vein in his neck.

″This is one in a billion,″ said Dr. Phillip Richemont, one of three University Medical Center surgeons who spent almost 2 1/2 hours Monday extracting the section of steel rod from Justin Stiner’s chest and neck.

The 4-foot-10, 86-pound third-grader fell off the roof of a house in Sierra Vista while playing with a friend Monday. He fell onto a 4-foot section of the threaded rod, similar to ″rebar″ used for reinforcing concrete, that was sticking out of the ground.

Surgeons were stunned to find that although the rod had pierced the heart in two places and divided the jugular vein, ″it didn’t bleed. It’s amazing,″ Richemont said.

The heart tissue seemingly ″contracted down between the threads,″ cutting off bleeding, Richemont said.

Justin hung on the rod about 2 feet off the ground for about 20 minutes, alert the whole time, before paramedics cut off a 2 1/2 -foot piece of the rod without disturbing the 18-inch section that penetrated his body.

He was flown by helicopter about 80 miles to Tucson. Surgery did not begin until about 3 1/2 hours after the accident, said Dr. Michael Esser, who operated on the boy.

Paramedics said the boy was calm throughout the trip to the hospital.

″What makes this so interesting is the amount of time it took until he got to the hospital ... and yet he lived,″ Richemont said.

On arrival at Tucson, Justin ″wanted to know if I was going to remove it. He was very cooperative,″ Richemont said.

The rod was unscrewed from Justin’s neck and body while the boy was on a heart-bypass machine, Richemont said.

The bar had pierced his body several inches above the navel and just below the breastbone. It tore through the bottom of his heart’s right ventricle and exited the top of the chamber.

His mother, Amanda Stiner, said Wednesday her son hasn’t comprehended yet the seriousness of his injuries. ″This morning is the first time he found out he was cut open,″ she said.

″The doctors have told me how lucky he was. They said that it was just a miracle that he lived.″

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She said he underwent testing Wednesday because of abdominal pains, but later in the day he was moved from an intensive care unit to the center’s regular pediatric unit, a spokeswoman said. Ms. Stiner, 31, said doctors told her Justin might be released early next week, barring complications.

Ms. Stiner described her son as ″a climber, always on trees, on the roof,″ and said he told doctors Wednesday that ‴It was like falling in slow motion.‴

She added that he told her ″he’s not climbing on nothing″ in the future.

Esser and Richemont said the right side of the heart has about one-third the blood 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.″

After leaving the heart, the rod missed the aorta and pulmonary arteries, cut the thymus gland, tore the right interior jugular vein in half and skimmed off the carotid artery but did not exit his neck, said the doctors and hospital spokeswoman Peggy Rowley.

The boy’s severed jugular, which returns blood from the head to the heart, was simply tied off, but that will pose no problems because other veins would provide needed circulation, Esser said.

Justin’s condition was upgraded from critical to serious Wednesday morning and he remained in intensive care, said Ms. Rowley.

When Justin awoke Tuesday he asked for two things: some ice to soothe his throat since he wasn’t allowed to eat or drink, and to play Nintendo, Richemont said.

″He probably just thinks this is kind of a slight inconvenience in his life,″ Esser said.