Toddler a millimetre from tragedy after fall leaves pencil lodged in brain
A two-year-old girl was just a millimetre away from a potentially fatal brain injury when she fell onto a pencil and it lodged in her brain.
Little Wren Bowell had the near-miss when she tripped at home – forcing the pencil she was carrying through her eye socket and into her brain.
The pencil narrowly missed her eyeball and three major blood vessels but lodged 1.5 inches into the front of the two-year-old’s brain.
She had to be rushed to Frenchay Hospital where neurosurgeons operated on her for four hours – removing a section of her skull so they could take the pencil out.
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Wren had been drawing in her bedroom and wanted to show her parents, Martyn and Michelle, her pictures when she tripped over a stair gate on March 13.
“The stair gate was there to keep her safe, but as she tripped over it while carrying the pencil she fell onto it,” 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 kept a level-head and realised not to try and get the pencil out.”
An ambulance was called and Wren was initially taken from the family’s home in Peasedown St John, Somerset, to the Royal United Hospital in Bath.
A quick scan showed the seriousness of the injury and just how far into the brain the pencil was lodged and the decision was taken 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 just a couple of milimetres 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. Once it was done they washed it out with saline to make sure it was infection free. 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,” Mr Bowell, who has signed up for a first aid course since the incident, said.
He is now raising money for the children’s unit to provide more toys to entertain young patients. He will be taking part in a cycle 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.
“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 decided to raise money for brain injury charity Bristol Headway in Wren’s name.
To sponsor the team’s efforts visit www.justgiving.org.uk/ride4recovery .