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Endovascular Expertise Enables Dramatic Recovery

January 15, 2020

The expertise of a collaborative, multidisciplinary team of specialists at The University of Kansas Health System turned a near-tragic event into an inspiring success.

Eli Gregg, then 15, was outdoors with his brothers and friends when they discovered a 10-inch knife in the grass. In trying to take the knife from the younger boys, Eli tripped and fell. The knife pierced his face, penetrating deeply from just under his eye.

At the health system, Eli's care team, led by endovascular neurosurgeon Koji Ebersole, MD, developed a strategic plan to remove the knife that was resting on Eli's carotid artery – with enough pressure to indent the artery. Surgeons successfully removed the knife and prevented bleeding into the brain.

Eli left the hospital days later with just a small cut and a band-aid to mark the ordeal.

"The blade could not have had a pound more force on it," Dr. Ebersole says. "If it had, I do not think Eli could have survived the event."

"This could have been the end of me," Eli adds. "But I get to see my family. I get to go home."

Learn more about Eli's journey and hear from his doctors.

15-year-old Eli Gregg was impaled in the face with a knife. Endovascular neurosurgeon Koji Ebersole, MD, led the team that successfully removed it.

While playing in his yard, 15-year-old Eli Gregg was impaled in the face with a large knife.

Endovascular neurosurgeon Koji Ebersole, MD, who led the successful surgery, was initially concerned about potential injury to the carotid artery.

Koji Ebersole: When we got the imaging study, it was clear that this thing is right next to that vessel if not on it. So to safely remove it would require a pretty sophisticated plan with multiple different teams involved in the angiography suite where we can see the vessel real time as we're trying to remove it, which without having images from the angiography suite, it would not be possible to make the plan because the proximity of the knife and the vessel are so close that we would need a perfect picture to tell how close they are.

Koji Ebersole: If it happens to be just off it, we could pull it and be pretty comfortable that the vessel will be free, but it's possible that it was right on it and ultimately that's what it turned out was the situation. Doing it right is the most important thing. It could not have had a pound more force on it and him survive that event. I don't think he would've survived it.

Prepared for any possible scenario, Dr. Ebersole and the surgical team successfully removed the knife.

Eli Gregg: I actually feel really good that I finally get to go home and see the rest of my family again. I'm really happy that they were able to get it out and keep me alive and going.

Jimmy Russell: It looked pretty grim. It was scary. They said there was a possibility of stroke, the possibility that he could lose the sight in one eye. It all depended on how they were able to get it out. So they set up a plan and took some precautions and it's almost a miracle. It really, really... It's amazing. He's doing great. He should make a full recovery. They're not too worried about the damage inside because it was just... it came out really smooth and it just how it happened was one in a million.

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