Stingray victim is medical miracle

Published: November 20, 2006 | 5063rd good news item since 2003

Doctors say retired Metro businessman is a ‘phenomenon’ after barb punctured lung, heart.

A retired Metro Detroit businessman who survived a stingray barb to his heart has left his hospital bed, hailed by doctors as a medical miracle. [Real Miracles: Indisputable Medical Evidence That God Heals]

James M. Bertakis, 81, has been moved out of the intensive care unit at Broward General Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and took his first steps this week.

“He’s a phenomenon,” said Dr. Eugene Costantini, who performed heart surgery on Bertakis to remove a barb about 3 inches long and half a centimeter wide.

Bertakis was boating near his Florida home at Lighthouse Point, south of Boca Raton, on Oct. 18 when a stingray jumped from the ocean, landed in his lap and whipped its tail at him, thrusting a venomous barb that broke off into his chest.

The barb punctured Bertakis’ lung and later migrated to his heart.

Costantini said Bertakis is only the third known survivor of such an injury, and the other two survivors were both younger than 35.

If the barb had struck the aorta or one of the coronary arteries, Bertakis would almost certainly be dead, the doctor said.

Renowned “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin, killed in Australia in September, was struck in the heart by a larger barb and made the mistake of pulling the barb from his chest, Costantini said.

In contrast, Bertakis’ barb migrated right through his heart before surgeons extracted it from the other side, he said.

After he gains more strength, Bertakis will likely be moved to a rehabilitation center and ultimately sent home, the doctor said. He should suffer no significant permanent effects from the injury, Costantini said.

Bertakis, who founded the Roseville manufactured home company Bertakis Development Inc. in 1972 before retiring to Florida, is divorced with four sons and eight grandchildren. He will celebrate his 82nd birthday Dec. 19.

“He’s got all his faculties, and he’s talking up a storm,” said Bertakis’ son Jim. “He has amazed the doctors since Day One.”

Jim Bertakis praised the hospital staff and the public for the support they have given his father throughout the ordeal.

Published in Economics, Miracles
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