Pencil pierces Bristol girl's brain - and she lives
A TWO-year-old girl was just a millimetre away from a deadly injury when she fell onto a pencil, which lodged in her brain.
Wren Bowell tripped over and landed on the pencil, which she had been carrying in her hand.
It went through her eye socket and into her brain, narrowly missing her eyeball before lodging 3.8cm – an inch and a half – into her brain. The pencil missed two blood vessels before it stopped just a millimetre away from a third, major blood vessel.
Wren was rushed to Frenchay Hospital, where neurosurgeons operated on her for four hours – opening up her skull so they could take the pencil out.
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The surgeon who operated on the toddler said she was "incredibly lucky", as other people who suffered similar injuries had died or suffered permanent brain damage.
She had been drawing in her bedroom and wanted to show her parents, Martyn and Michelle, her pictures when she tripped over a stair gate in her doorway on March 13.
Despite the seriousness of the injury and the operation to remove the pencil, she appears to have suffered no permanent damage. Mr Bowell, 34, said: "If anything happens to your child you are shocked. A broken bone would be bad enough, but something happening to the eye, head or brain is one of the worst things that could possibly go wrong. Fortunately my wife, who's a nursery nurse, kept a level head and realised not to try and get the pencil out."
An ambulance took Wren from the family's home in Peasedown St John, near Radstock, to the Royal United Hospital in Bath, where a scan showed the seriousness of the injury and doctors decided to transfer the youngster to the specialist neurosurgeons at Frenchay.
Mr Bowell, a model maker, said: "We only found out afterwards that the pencil missed two major blood vessels and if it had gone a millimetre either way it could have been a lot worse, if it had hit a third.
"The pencil was stuck so hard that they had to pull part of her face off and take out part of her skull to take out the pencil. They then put Wren's skull back together with plastic plates and screws, which will biodegrade."
After the operation Wren spent three weeks in Frenchay with her family around her and was allowed home on April 4. She had to take anti-seizure drugs as a precaution due to the brain injury but has been fine.
"The pencil missed her eye completely, as it bounced off the top of it and we have been told there was no damage to the optic nerve, which is remarkable," said Mr Bowell, who has signed up for a first aid course since the incident.
Wren's operation was carried out by Frenchay consultant neurosurgeon Ian Pople, who said: "The pencil was within a millimetre of hitting a big blood vessel in the brain. She was incredibly lucky as she came out, fortunately, with no major bleeding.
"It just skirted the top of the eye and that it didn't damage the eyeball itself was very fortunate. She was very lucky not to have suffered any permanent damage as far as we can see."
Mr Pople said he had seen this type of injury about three times in 16 years as a consultant neurosurgeon.
"I have also known of a case, which I did not deal with myself, that was fatal. And another, which was not fatal but caused a lot of damage because it hit the blood vessel."
He said that the pencil was completely wedged into Wren's brain and part of the skull had to be removed to get it out. It was also necessary to ensure no flecks from the pencil had remained inside using an antibiotic wash and medication afterwards.
Mr Bowell is now raising money for Frenchay's children's unit to provide more toys to entertain young patients. He will be taking part in a cycle ride from Stratton-on-the-Fosse in Somerset to Weymouth, which has been organised by his brother-in-law Damien McCutcheon.
"I am doing the bike ride because I can't thank the neurosurgeons enough for what they did and this is a way of giving a little bit back," said Mr Bowell. "The toys and games provided by the play team at Frenchay provided a distraction for Wren on a daily basis for those three and a half weeks. That kept her sane and therefore kept us sane, because we didn't leave her side."
Mr McCutcheon, who is raising money for brain injury charity Bristol Headway, said: "When Wren had her accident, I felt so helpless as I just didn't know what I could do to support her, my sister and brother-in-law."
To sponsor the team's efforts for Headway Bristol visit www.justgiving.org.uk/ride4recovery.
Money for the Frenchay play team can be donated online at www.pay pal.com using the e-mail address Wrenbowell@hotmail.co.uk.