Teen Survives After 10-Inch Knife Plunges Into His Skull

Eli Gregg was playing outside his Kansas home when he accidentally fell onto the knife, which lodged itself dangerously close to his carotid artery. 

By Jill Sederstrom
Eli Gregg

A Kansas teen is miraculously still alive after a 10-inch knife plunged into his face, lodging into his skull.

“It could not have had a pound more force on it and him survive that event. I don't think he would have survived it,” Dr. Koji Ebersole, director of endovascular neurosurgery, said in a video released Monday by the University of Kansas Health System and obtained by Oxygen.com.

Eli Gregg, 15, had been outside his Redfield home when his mother, Jimmy Russell, heard him scream Thursday night.

He came to the kitchen and his mother saw that a large kitchen knife was sticking out of her son’s head.

“It looked pretty grim. It was scary,” she said.

The knife didn't belong to the family but Eli and some other children had found it laying in the grass, Ebersole said, according to CNN.

“My understanding is, Eli wanted to take it away from the younger kids for protection, and in that transition, there was a trip and a fall, and it was in the hand of another boy at the time, and … it fell into his face,” Ebersole said.

Eli’s mother quickly called 911.

“When she looked at me, she just gasped. I was just like holding it, kind of, but I wasn't touching the blade really,” Eli said in the video interview. 

Eli Gregg and his mother

Eli was rushed to the hospital and later transported to the University of Kansas Health System, where surgeons worked to remove the knife.

In an eerie coincidence, Ebersole, who also works as an associate professor at the University of Kansas, had come across a similar injury in 2018 when Xavier Cunningham had fallen out of a treehouse and gotten impaled on a footlong metal skewer.

“At the time of Xavier’s case, nothing like that had been seen at our hospital amongst the personnel that were involved,” he said. “This is supposed to be a once in a career.”

But fortunately, the neurosurgeon was able to draw from that experience when formulating a plan of how to dislodge the knife from Eli’s skull.

Russell said doctors were concerned Eli could have a stroke or lose his eye sight in one eye. The knife went through the front of his face, with the sharp side of the knife essentially sitting on the carotid artery, the major artery supply the blood to the brain.

“If we get a cut there, he’s going to have an overt bleeding that I don’t think [he’d] be able to survive. So we had to come up with a number of strategies to protect that,” Ebersole said.

In an operation that began at 7 a.m., surgeons used catheters, tiny balloons and other tools to carefully remove the 10-inch knife. Surgeons managed to keep the blood vessel fully intact and Gregg is now wide awake and expected to recover.

"I think he's doing great," Ebersol said.

The surgery’s success was an answered prayer for Russell.

“It’s almost a miracle. … It is really, really amazing," she said.

Eli is looking forward to getting home and is grateful that his mom was at home and able to quickly get him the help he needed.

“I love her, and I’m glad she was there for me," he said.

Eli said he plans to avoid any sharp objects for a while.

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