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Woman survives after harpoon shooting by husband

By Marilia Brocchetto, CNN
May 10, 2013 -- Updated 0950 GMT (1750 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The gun misfires as her husband is cleaning it
  • It hits her jaw and mouth before it lodges in her cervical spine
  • "If it had hit 1 cm to the other side ... she would have been dead," neurosurgeon says

(CNN) -- A Brazilian woman escaped death by less than an inch after her husband accidentally shot her in the mouth this week with a harpoon, authorities said.

Elisangela Borborema Rosa, 28, was in her kitchen with her husband Monday night while he was handling the harpoon, according to Rio de Janeiro state health authorities.

The gun misfired and the spear hit her in the mouth and jaw, and finally lodged in her cervical spine, officials said in a statement.

She was taken to an area hospital and doctors expect her to fully recover.

"This is the first case of its kind that we have gotten at the hospital," said Allan da Costa, a neurosurgeon who operated on the woman.

"The peculiarity of the accident is that the tip of harpoon penetrated the region between her top vertebrae and the spinal cord. If the object hit only 1 cm to one side the patient would have become a quadriplegic. If it had hit 1 cm to the other side or reach one artery to the brain, she would have been dead. "

Doctors are keeping her under observation.

"She is moving both sides(of her body), but having a little difficulty on the right side," da Costa. said. "We need to wait for the sedation to wear off and the tracheotomy tube to be removed to make a full assessment. If all goes well, she will be discharged in a week."

This is not the first harpoon accident in the state this year.

Last month, Bruno Barcellos de Souza Coutinho, 34, was cleaning his harpoon when it misfired and pierced the corner of his left eye and his skull.

He was brought to a local hospital conscious and alert and after a four-hour surgery, doctors removed the object without any brain damage.

In Coutinho's case, a neurosurgeon said the harpoon was millimeters away from vital arteries.

The case was considered a rarity and the procedure to remove it was unheard of in the city of Petropolis, just outside of Rio de Janeiro.

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