'Miracle' as boy survives fall onto BBQ skewer which impaled his skull

Xavier Cunningham at University of Kansas Hospital
Xavier Cunningham at University of Kansas Hospital Copyright Shannon Miller
By Alasdair SandfordNBC News with AP
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Doctors say a 10-year old boy in the US could make a complete recovery following surgery to remove a meat skewer from his head.


It’s being described as a “miracle”. A 10-year-old boy in the United States has survived after falling from a tree and landing on a barbecue meat skewer that passed right through his head.

Surgeons in Kansas City successfully removed the object which somehow missed his vital organs.

Xavier Cunningham had been playing with friends last Saturday when suddenly his mother heard screaming. She found Xavier with the meat skewer sticking out of his head.

He had fallen from a treehouse after being attacked by wasps – right onto the lethal object which pierced his skull.

Shannon Miller, Xavier's father
Xavier CunninghamShannon Miller, Xavier's father

Xavier's father, Shannon Miller, said his son and a group of friends had discovered the barbecue skewer in the grass in a field behind the house in Harrisonville, Missouri, about 50 kilometres south of Kansas City.

"One of the boys stuck the forked end of the skewer into the ground to keep anyone from stepping on it. 

"As the climbed up into the treehouse they disturbed a very large nest of yellow jackets. The swarm attacked and Xavier fell to the ground landing face first onto the barbecue skewer. 

"He ran inside and left with my wife to go to the hospital. He was more concerned with the yellow jackets than the skewer," Miller told NBC News.

Shannon Miller
The treehouse where Xavier and his friends had been playing before he fell.Shannon Miller

The boy apparently said “I’m dying, Mum” as they rushed to hospital.

He was transferred to the University of Kansas Hospital, where doctors said it was a miracle that the skewer had missed his eye, brain, spinal cord and major blood vessels.

"It was one in a million for it to pass five or six inches through the front of the face to the back and not have hit these things," said neurosurgery director Koji Ebersole as reported by the Kansas City Star.

But Ebersole and his team managed to remove it. The neurosurgeon later showed a 3-D graphic of the boy's skull pierced by the metal object.

"I just can't believe that when you put those two things together. This is the carotid artery. This is the vertebral artery and this is the device passing immediately adjacent to those vessels," he said.

Medical News Network
An X-ray showing the skewer through Xavier Cunningham's headMedical News Network

The operation was all the more tricky due to the skewer’s shape. If it twisted it could have made the injuries worse.

Doctors waited till the next day to remove it to get the necessary team in place, meaning the young victim had to wait overnight with the skewer still planted in his head.

Xavier, they say, was “remarkably resilient and brave”. They now think the lucky boy could make a complete recovery.

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