· By Noman Tariq
A 4-year-old fell while drinking from a metal straw, and it pierced his throat.
A 4-year-old boy nearly died when a metal straw punctured a vital artery in his throat, temporarily cutting off blood flow to his brain.
The boy, Charlie DeFraia of East Moriches, New York, fell from a porch ledge while drinking a yogurt beverage with a metal straw. The straw which went through his tongue and pierced his throat, according to Today.
When his parents came outside to see their son's face covered in blood, they initially thought he had bitten his tongue, they told the outlet. But as paramedics rushed DeFraia to Stony Brook University Hospital, it became clear that the boy's blood loss was coming from a more severe injury.
"He had really no measurable blood pressure," Dr. Richard Scriven, chief of pediatric trauma at Stony Brook Trauma Center, told Today. "He essentially had lost nearly all his blood."
Doctors determined that DeFraia had suffered an injury to his internal carotid artery, one of the major pathways that supplies blood and oxygen to the brain. They managed to stop the bleeding by packing the wound with gauze, but repairing the artery would be challenging.
Thanks to Dr. David Fiorella — known among colleagues as "a wizard with catheters" — the boy has recovered well and will start kindergarten this week, Today reported.
Surgeons repaired the boy's throat wound via a tube inserted into his thigh
Once DeFraia's doctors were able to locate the source of the bleeding, they had to think outside the box to repair his injury.
There are two carotid arteries in the neck — one on either side — and each one splits into an internal and external branch. According to the Cleveland Clinic, the internal carotid arteries supply the brain, while the external arteries send blood and oxygen to the head, face, and neck.
DeFraia had injured his right inner carotid artery in a spot just behind his jaw. The straw had punctured the inner artery without damaging the outer artery or breaking skin, so going in through his neck was not an option, doctors told Today.
Dr. David Chesler, director of pediatric neurosurgery at Stony Brook, was concerned about the lack of blood flow to DeFraia's brain due to the injury. Clamping the artery would stop the bleeding, but it wouldn't save the blood vessel.
He enlisted Fiorella, director of the Stony Brook Cerebrovascular Center, who inserted a thin tube into an artery in DeFraia's thigh, and pushed it through the body's vascular system until it reached the wound in his neck.
Then, Fiorella essentially "recreated a brand new carotid artery inside Charlie's old carotid artery," using stents to stop the bleeding and restore blood flow to the brain. The procedure took just 45 minutes, and after a week in a medically-induced coma, the boy began to recover.
DeFraia has recovered incredibly well, his doctors told Today, but the accident was enough to convince his mother to give up metal straws for good.
"They've been in the garbage since the day after the accident," said Crystal DeFraia, who told Today she had initially bought the eco-friendly straws to save the sea turtles.
While metal straws have become a popular alternative to single-use plastic, they've been associated with a handful of injuries in the past.
In 2019, a woman in the UK died after a 10-inch stainless steel straw went through her eye socket and into her brain. She had stumbled while carrying a mason jar-style drinking glass with the straw attached, Insider reported.