MIAMI -- Gabriel Mendigutia has his heart in the right place. It's just put together a little differently than most people.
And this small difference in anatomy may have saved his life after he dared his girlfriend to shoot him with a pellet rifle -- and she complied.
Ally Castro pointed, closed her eyes and shot.
The pointed lead pellet went through Mendigutia's heart and lodged in his back muscle.
"He is a miracle case because so many things went in his favor," said Dr. Nicholas Namias, one of the surgeons who operated on him last week at the Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital.
Most miraculous was the rare anatomy of Mendigutia's heart. The bullet caused a blockage in the left anterior descending artery, the heart's main artery. But because of his heart's "very rare" anatomy, blood was able to flow through the opposite side of the artery.
Also, in this type of case, the pellet could have affected his aorta, esophagus and/or trachea, said Namias. In this case, it missed all three.
Mendigutia was airlifted to Ryder Trauma at midnight May 23 with cardiac tamponade, which means blood was filling up in the space between the myocardium (heart muscle) and pericardium (outer covering the heart). This prevents the ventricles from expanding and can cause a heart attack.
"Gabriel had a right coronary artery that supplies the left anterior descending distribution. He had a blockage, but rare anatomy allowed blood to flow backwards to area of injury, "said Namias, who doubts any other area hospital would have been able to save his life.
Within 30 minutes of his arrival at Jackson, a cardiac team that included an experienced heart transplant surgeon and cardiac anesthesiologist were operating on him after another team had stabilized him.
Mendigutia remembers Castro, 19, asking if she should call 911 and then falling on the floor. He held his chest not to bleed out and came in and out of consciousness.
"I woke up in the helicopter and again on the operating table," said Mendiguita who graduated from Belen Jesuit Preparatory School and is studying political science at Florida International University.
Police found Mendigutia on the floor in a house that he shares with roommates at 11 p.m. Castro, who has been dating Mendiguita for six months, was with him, according the police report.
Mendigutia, who now sports a scar from the bottom of his neck to his lower pelvic area, said that he was in the backyard of the house shooting beer cans and bottles -- something he has done many times in the past. By the time Castro got home, he had drunk about 10 beers.
Castro declined to comment other than saying that Mendigutia was doing well and that the only people who saw what happened were her and him.
The police report classifies the incident as an accidental shooting and Miami-Dade Police said that it is unlikely that Castro will face any charges.
"Honestly, I didn't think she would do it," Mendigutia, who changed his Facebook profile picture to show himself sitting up in his hospital bed. "I broke my No. 1 rule. Never point a gun at anyone. It was stupid."
(c) 2011, The Miami Herald.
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