Health

Doctor Saves 25-Year-Old By Freezing His Skull
When Kyle Johnson fell off his longboard - fracturing his skull in more than 10 places - his chances of survival were very slim. But one neurosurgeon took a chance and performed a "last-ditch" procedure on Kyle that led in his miraculous recovery. Here's his story...

Bilateral Decompressive Craniectomy

On June 2, 2010, life changed in an instant for Kyle Johnson. The 25-year-old was longboarding down a hill in his Utah neighborhood when he fell back and smashed his skull. 

"An initial CT scan showed profound skull fractures in the back as well as both sides of his head," Dr. Blake Welling, a neurosurgeon at McKay-Dee Hospital in Ogden, Utah told FoxNews.com. 

As a result, Kyle had uncontrollable brain swelling and time was not on his side. That's when Welling decided to take him into surgery.

"We removed each side of his head," Welling said. "It's called a bilateral decompressive craniectomy. It's something that neurosurgeons do as a last-ditch effort."

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Global Brain Injury

Welling said while most neurosurgeons do a decompressive craniectomy on one side of the head where the trauma was - that was not the best choice in this case.

"Kyle had such a global brain injury that we needed to take both sides of his head off," he said. "You leave a small strip of bone right down the middle, but remove the entire side of his head and we put that in the freezer."

It took a team of specialists quite some time to put the pieces of Kyle's skull back together using micro-screws and plates. The pieces of skull were then placed in a deep freezer to preserve the bone while doctors monitored Kyle's brain swelling.

3 Weeks in a Coma

"It took about two weeks for his brain swelling to become reduced, " Welling said. "We kept him an a drug-induced coma for about three weeks."

And after Kyle's swelling went down, Welling put the bone flaps back into place.

"I wasn't quite sure what we were going to be left with," he said. "When people have injuries like this, I thought he may have a significant disability in terms of having to talk and walk again and learning his cognitive function. But low and behold, Kyle woke up and his lights gradually went back on."

 

Kyle's Mom Watches Over Him

Throughout his entire stay in the hospital, Kyle's family kept vigil by his bedside. In this photo, his mom Becky, watches over her son.

When we asked Kyle how this harrowing ordeal has changed his life, he said his priorities have changed as well as his appreciation for family and friends.

"For them (his parents) not to leave my side for the duration of me being in the hospital - it means a lot," he said. "And that is definitely another thing - I've definitely learned is - the love of parents is ultimate."

 

Kyle and Dr. Blake Welling

Kyle also has a lot of appreciation for the doctor who saved his life - Dr. Blake Welling.

"You know, Dr. Welling told me that this was 'out of the box' and that I should really be dead or very much like a vegetable - and the fact that I was able to talk to him and walk - he's still amazed by that."

Although Kyle didn't require any real physical therapy, he is currently undergoing cognitive therapy to help with memory loss and multitasking skills.

"I told him this is a miraculous recovery," Welling said. "For as good as he is, somebody is watching out for him."

 

Kyle After the Accident

More than eight weeks after the accident, Kyle is looking forward to the future, but he's not sure if he will ever get back on his longboard.

"I don't know if I will," he said. "It's kind of an eerie type of feeling - so I don't know if I will ever get back to longboarding - but snowboarding for sure."

 

 

 

Eye-Opening Experience

In the meantime, he's making sure others know how important it is to wear a helmet.

"This has really opened my eyes. For snowboarders, longboarders or skateboarders - if you're not wearing a helmet, I will be the first one to say 'hey you really need to put a helmet on.'"

"To show pictures of me with both sides of my skull gone and just skin up against the brain - I make a point to say this is what happens when you don't wear a helmet. If you hit your head hard enough, you could break your skull and end up in a coma for three weeks at the age of 25."

All Smiles

As you can see from his smile, Kyle was enjoying life to the fullest before the accident - and despite his dramatic injuries - he still plans on doing the same exact thing now. 

These days, he just has a different outlook on the world around him.

"I have a new appreciation for family and friends and what life really is," he said.

 

 

Doctor Saves 25-Year-Old By Freezing His Skull

When Kyle Johnson fell off his longboard - fracturing his skull in more than 10 places - his chances of survival were very slim. But one neurosurgeon took a chance and performed a "last-ditch" procedure on Kyle that led in his miraculous recovery. Here's his story...

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