Air gun pellet removed from 8-year-old's neck 3 months after getting shot

Many hospitals and doctors refused to take up the case as surgery was extremely risky


Sahim Salim

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Photos: Supplied
Photos: Supplied

Published: Mon 13 Feb 2023, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Mon 13 Feb 2023, 3:13 PM

An eight-year-old Oman-based child has got a second lease of life after an air gun pellet shot by another boy nearly damaged his windpipe. The boy, Yousif, was playing near his home in Oman, when the pellet hit his neck.

Since the pellet was lodged in an area that was very close to vital structures, surgery was risky. Any damage to nerves and blood vessels in the neck would have become life-threatening. Many hospitals and doctors did not take up the case.

The boy’s father, Yaqub Sulaiman, recalled how three painful months passed by. “I researched for nearly two months for a good hospital to get the pellet removed.”

UAE-based Aster DM Healthcare, which has a presence in Oman, advised the family to take the boy to Aster Medcity, Kochi in Kerala, India. The healthcare group’s international desk managed the boy’s transfer to the south Indian state along with his parents.

Dr Sajan Koshy, paediatric cardiac surgeon at Aster Medcity, has dealt with shrapnel extraction cases before. “Extraction of shrapnel is a risky procedure. If the shrapnel is not in a sensitive part of the body, we do not recommend extracting it as this may result in complications,” he said.

“But in Yousif’s case, CT scans showed that the pellet was in a very fatal position in front of the neck, millimetres away from his trachea and thyroid gland. Any sort of movement could damage his nervous system and arteries, resulting in loss of vocal capacity, internal bleeding or even death. The severity of the case is what made us move immediately and conduct the procedure as soon as possible.”

Dr Koshy teamed up with Dr Abid Iqbal, cardiac surgeon, and Dr Suresh Nair, anaesthetist, to carry out the procedure in two hours after evaluating the CT scan. Using radiological tools, the team mapped the location of the gunshot pellet in Yousif’s neck in 3D. This assisted the surgeons in locating and extracting the shrapnel.

The boy recovered in five days. An examination did not reveal any damage to the vocal cords. Yousif was discharged last week and declared fit to fly in two days.

The boy’s family is in touch with Dr Koshy. He can resume schooling in a week’s time, according to Aster.

The pellet that was removed from Yousif's neck
The pellet that was removed from Yousif's neck

Why air guns are dangerous

A UAE-based doctor explained why air guns are dangerous. “Children are especially vulnerable to injury from air guns, as they may not fully understand the dangers involved or how to properly handle the equipment,” said Dr Sajesh Gopinath from Aster Clinic Bur Dubai.

The guns use the expanding force of air to propel a projectile, which is usually lead, down a barrel. Injuries are predominantly a result of accidental shooting by a friend, relative or the victim “usually in the absence of adult supervision”.

Dr Gopinath it is important to educate people, especially children, about the dangers of air guns and how to handle them safely. “Parents, guardians, and educators should provide children with information about air guns, including the potential consequences of improper use.”


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