Life in Syria’s combat zones forces residents to face numerous life-threatening hazards, particularly in the country’s southern regions. Sometimes citizens succeed in protecting themselves by escaping the danger zones or by hiding. Other times they have no choice but to rely on luck—and on Israeli doctors.
A week ago, five year old M, who lives in southern Syria, took a walk with his father. While they were out, shooting began, and as they sought shelter, M was hit by a stray bullet. The bullet, which hit the child’s face, entered through his right cheek and continued in the direction of his neck. M’s father rushed him to the IDF hospital on the Syria-Israel border. From there he was taken to Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa. His condition was defined as serious, and likely to deteriorate.
Upon at Rambam, the boy underwent imaging tests to shed more light on his condition, and to determine the bullet’s exact location. Tests revealed that his condition was more complicated than anticipated. The bullet had travelled down to the boy’s neck, passed the pharynx and the tongue, and wedged in a particularly dangerous location: next to blood vessels in the neck, five millimeters from the carotid artery–which brings blood to the brain—and near the jugular vein. In this situation, the bullet could have damaged blood supply to the brain or to the spinal nerves, causing brain damage, severe handicaps, or death.
“We explained to the father that his son had been very lucky, since the bullet stopped before hitting an important blood vessel,” said Dr. Saleh Naseir, who specializes in oral and maxillofacial surgery, and one of the doctors who operated on M. “We also explained to him that this procedure was dangerous and challenging, but that the bullet had to come out.”
Over two and a half hours, an interdisciplinary team that included Dr. Tony Karram, a senior blood vessel surgeon; Dr. Omri Emodi, a senior oral and maxillofacial surgeon; and the above-mentioned Dr. Nassir, performed the complicated operation. First, they opened the boy’s neck, carefully separated the blood vessels from each other, and drained the infection caused by the bullet. Slowly, they removed the bullet from its precarious location. “There was great concern during the operation,” recalls Dr. Naseir. “It wasn’t clear if the bullet was blocking a hole in the blood vessel. There was a possibility that as soon as we removed the bullet, risky bleeding would begin, but happily, this did not occur.”
The worried father waited outside the operating room, and was obviously delighted to hear the good news. “He hugged and thanked us from the bottom of his heart for saving his son’s life,” says Dr. Naseir. “The boy was quite fortunate. Another few millimeters and he would have died on the spot. Now he’s recovering from the operation, and in a few days he will be able to go home.”