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Soldier survives skull knifing attack

Sgt Dan Powers survived an attack in which four inches of a knife blade was rammed into his skull. At first Sergeant Powers wasn't even aware that he had been stabbed by an Iraqi insurgent. He was patrolling in the streets of East Baghdad in Iraq when his attacker came up behind him. He simply thought he had been bumped "like a football tackle" until colleagues told him what had happened. "There was no pain because the brain has no pain sensory nerves. It was all surface, like someone punched me in the head," he said. His fellow soldiers decided against pulling out the blade, instead protecting the knife handle with bandages and a plastic cup, and taking him to a military hospital. Throughout his surgery Powers was awake, explaining to the doctors what had happened as they worked on the knife. At one point someone placed a phone over his ear so he could talk to his wife back at home and reassure her that everything would be fine. Senior surgeon in Iraq Lt. Col. Richard Teff was guided by video link from the US by the army's top vascular neurosurgeon Lt. Col. Rocco Armonda. "We were lucky we had the right people in the right place," Dr. Teff said. Dr. Teff faced a difficult dilemma, carry out a major brain and artery operation, or cross his fingers and pull out the knife embedded in the victim's brain. "Any time you have a penetrating stab to the head, the biggest concern is what's going to happen when you pull the knife out," he explained. "He started bleeding like crazy, enough to make everyone in the room worry he might die," Teff said. Despite fears that Sgt. Powers would suffer severe paralysis, brain damage and lost eyesight, he confounded the experts. Though he faced more surgery back in the US, after a month he was discharged. He was given the knife, which he agreed to send it back to Baghdad for his attacker's trial. He said he does not know what happened to his attacker, but understood the Iraqis "will lengthen his neck a little bit". His remarkable recovery is regarded as a miracle of modern military medicine. - November 9, 2007.