The emergency "operation", by local GP Rob Carson in the Victorian country town of Maryborough, was yesterday hailed by a leading neurosurgeon as "one of the gutsiest life-saving efforts imaginable".
The drama happened late last Friday when Nicholas Rossi fell off his bike while riding in a quiet cul de sac outside a friend's house.
"He was a bit delirious at first, but then he stood up and said he was fine," his father, Michael Rossi, told The Australian yesterday. When he got home, Nicholas kept complaining of a headache and his mother, Karen, a trained nurse, took him to the district hospital where Dr Carson, a local GP, was on duty.
The doctor kept him for observation, but an hour later Nicholas began to drift in and out of consciousness and have spasms.
Dr Carson recognised it as a sign of internal bleeding in the skull that places acute pressure on the brain - the same deadly condition that recently claimed the life of actress Natasha Richardson, wife of Hollywood actor Liam Neeson. He also noticed that one of the boy's pupils was larger than the other - another sign of the internal bleeding.
The boy had fractured his skull and torn a tiny artery between the bone and the brain just above his ear. This created internal bleeding that became trapped between his skull and brain and formed into a huge blood clot, placing pressure on the brain.
If Dr Carson did not act within minutes, the boy would die.
"Dr Carson came over to us and said, 'I am going to have to drill into (Nicholas) to relieve the pressure on the brain - we've got one shot at this and one shot only'," Mr Rossi recalled.
The small hospital was not equipped with neurological drills, so Dr Carson obtained a household De Walt drill, used for boring holes in wood, from a hospital maintenance room.
He telephoned leading Melbourne neurosurgeon David Wallace to help talk him through the procedure, which he had never tried before.
"He drilled into my son's head and we heard the suction," Mr Rossi said.
Dr Carson drilled until a blood clot fell out and continued to treat Nicholas until he could be airlifted an hour later to Melbourne's Royal Children's Hospital. "If you are in that situation you just do those things," he said.
"It is not a personal achievement, it is just a part of the job and I had a very good team of people helping me."
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