Johns Hopkins' chief of pediatric neurosurgery tells WJLA that young Darius Foreman "was a millimeter from death's door." The seventh-grader was building a tree house Jan. 20 in Maryland when he fell from a branch and a 5-foot board landed on his head. His cousins' mom came outside to find Darius wandering around with the board still attached to his head. “I thought something was stuck in my hair,” he tells Delmarva Now. In reality, a 6-inch screw in the board had pierced Foreman's skull and entered his brain. “The danger was where it was located,” Johns Hopkins' Dr. Alan Cohen says. The screw appeared to be going into the main vein that drains blood from the brain. Paramedics had to cut off pieces of the board to fit Darius into the ambulance, and a larger police helicopter had to be used to transport him to Johns Hopkins.
After the board was fully removed, it took doctors about two hours to remove the screw from Darius' skull and brain. Cohen says they couldn't just unscrew it or "there could be torrential hemorrhaging." Instead, the team drilled holes on either side of the screw to get it out and replaced the missing portions of Darius' skull with a titanium plate. All told, the screw—which Cohen called "a ticking time bomb—was lodged in Darius' skull for about seven hours, his mom, Joy Ellingsworth, tells CNN. But Cohen says it was "a story with a happy ending." Darius was able to leave the hospital Thursday—his 13th birthday. He even got to keep the screw as a present. Ellingsworth says it was "one of the scariest things I've ever been through." But Darius says he learned an important lesson: "Never build a tree fort." (Read more close calls stories.)