Reporter: Mark Kelly l Videographer: Sally Delta
Lynchburg, VA - It all started innocently enough. Some local boys were just playing around. But in an instant, it all went terribly wrong.
Thirteen-year-old Dez Heal of Lynchburg fell onto the spear he had just made. The picture taken at the hospital is very graphic.
It's truly amazing Heal survived and can talk about this. He looks just fine, and just has some bandages on his neck.
The boys of the McWane neighborhood block could very well spend the rest of their summer just playing ball after their favorite game turned dangerous.
"He was screaming and you could hear it in his voice that he was freaked out," said Nicholas Blencowe, victim's friend.
"I heard my son yelling for me," said David Heal, victim's dad.
"I was scared that he wouldn't be okay," said Blencowe.
Nicholas Blencowe thought his friend Dez Heal was hurt for good when pretending to be a ninja landed Heal in the hospital. Heal picked up a bamboo stick as his ninja weapon, never thinking it would turn on him.
"I decided to put the bamboo stick in the back of my shirt," said Dez Heal.
"I guess when he jumped, the stick must have went forward. And when he hit the ground, the stick went in his neck," said Blencowe.
"It entered right here on the right side, then came out about three inches back, just behind his ear," said David Heal.
"And I felt it and I was like, 'O gosh,'" said Dez Heal.
Heal ran to his dad in the house with his lips blue and face ghost white. Dad, calm and collected, called 911 as a stream of worries flooded Heal.
"I'm thinking that I might pass out, maybe during the surgery when they pull it out, it might start gushing, and they might not be able to save me. I'm hoping it hasn't hit anything important," said Dez Heal.
Heal's wish came true. It didn't hit any area that could threaten his life.
But, while the pole did not hit an artery, it did strike a nerve.
"Did you learn any kind of lesson from this?" we asked.
"Don't play with sticks a lot, and now I'm scared of bamboo," said Blencowe.
"Yeah, I'm not playing as rough as I used to," said Dez Heal.
"It makes you think about the value of life," said David Heal.
Doctors in Lynchburg transferred Heal to UVA Medical Center. That pole was stuck in his neck for five hours before doctors got it out.
Dez and his friends are taking their play time a little easier nowadays. They're going to play less ninja games and talk a little more instead.
(To see the photo of Dez's injury taken at the hospital, click here. Warning: is it very graphic.)