English boy's 'miraculous' recovery after harpooned in eye

Devon White, 14, was airlifted 100 miles to Rome hospital after horror incident

ROME – Devon White harpooned himself through the eye whilst on holiday in a seaside resort in Sperlonga yet made a miraculous recovery, doctors said on Friday.

 The 14-year-old from Chelmsford in Essex was on holiday with his brother and uncle just off the coast of Sperlonga on the coast in Lazio when the accident occurred. They were on board a dingy on Friday afternoon; whilst the boy was fiddling with the dangerous hunting weapon, the shaft came away and perforated his mask, entering his eye and becoming lodged in his skull. The horror-film like incident could have killed him in an instant; instead, he was saved, will almost certainly recover his vision and most probably escape with no brain damage.

 The harpoon miraculously missed vital sections of his brain with an eerie precision, leaving him unharmed. This was only actually discovered at San Camillo hospital where the boy underwent an operation a few hours after initial neurosurgery at the Roman hospital. At the time there seemed to be no hope; the wounds seemed too serious. However, two days ago Devon came out of intensive care and is currently in the recovery ward, although on antibiotics to avoid the risk of infection.

 The rescue was as dramatic as the accident itself. A coast guard patrol boat rescued Devon in the sea and brought him to the police station where a 118 helicopter was waiting to transfer him to Rome. In the meantime, the emergency vehicle had been set in motion to be ready to receive him.

 “I have never seen anything like this in all my 35 years working as a doctor,” said the director of the neurosurgery unit, Alberto Delitala. “My colleague Alessandra Castelnuovo told me that there has only ever been one incident like it; maybe 40 years ago. When I saw the image sent by an assistant on Whatsapp after calling me in hospital I was so shocked I could hardly believe it.” Delitala coordinated the operation and the details verge on the extraordinary. Before doing the ‘Tac’ to check the trajectory of the shot, it was necessary to saw off the rifle bar. While four nurses held him still, a fireman cut it with a specific saw. 

 Delitala is still in shock. “Imagine; the weapon slipped between the ocular globe and the lacrimal gland, without touching his eye. In the end it was finally stuck in the back cranial bone.”

 English newspapers have given great prominence to the drama with its unexpected happy ending, praising the efficiency of the Italian public health system often criticised within Italy itself.

 cb