An American soldier had a miraculous escape from a knife
attack in which four inches of a blade was rammed into his
At first Sergeant Dan Powers wasn't even aware that he had
been stabbed by an Iraqi insurgent.
He was patrolling in the streets of East Baghdad in Iraq
when his attacker came up behind him.
He simply thought he had been bumped "like a football
tackle" until colleagues told him what had happened.
"There was no pain because the brain has no pain sensory
nerves. It was all surface, like someone punched me in the
head," he said.
His fellow soldiers decided against pulling out the blade,
instead protecting the knife handle with bandages and a
plastic cup, and taking him to a military hospital.
Throughout his surgery Powers was awake, explaining to the
doctors what had happened as they worked on the knife.
At one point someone placed a phone over his ear so he could
talk to his wife back at home and reassure her that everything
would be fine.
Senior surgeon in Iraq Lt. Col. Richard Teff was guided
by video link from the US by the army's top vascular neurosurgeon
Lt. Col. Rocco Armonda.
"We were lucky we had the right people in the right
place," Dr. Teff said.
Dr. Teff faced a difficult dilemma, carry out a major brain
and artery operation, or cross his fingers and pull out
the knife embedded in the victim's brain.
"Any time you have a penetrating stab to the head,
the biggest concern is what's going to happen when you pull
the knife out," he explained.
"He started bleeding like crazy, enough to make everyone
in the room worry he might die," Teff said.
Despite fears that Sgt. Powers would suffer severe paralysis,
brain damage and lost eyesight, he confounded the experts.
Though he faced more surgery back in the US, after a month
he was discharged.
He was given the knife, which he agreed to send it back
to Baghdad for his attacker's trial.
He said he does not know what happened to his attacker,
but understood the Iraqis "will lengthen his neck a
His remarkable recovery is regarded as a miracle of modern
- November 9, 2007.