Nicholas Rossi fell off his bike on Friday in the small Victoria state city of Maryborough, hitting his head on the pavement, his father, Michael, said Wednesday. By the time Rossi got to the hospital, he was slipping in and out of consciousness.
The doctor on duty, Rob Carson, quickly recognized the boy was experiencing potentially fatal bleeding on the brain and knew he had only minutes to make a hole in the boy's skull to relieve the pressure.
But the small hospital wasn't equipped with neurological drills so Carson sent for a household drill from the maintenance room.
"Dr. Carson came over to us and said, 'I am going to have to drill into (Nicholas) to relieve the pressure on the brain we've got one shot at this and one shot only,"' Michael Rossi told The Australian newspaper.
"The procedure didn't worry me," Carson told Cameron Baud of Autralia's Network TEN. "What worried me was that this little twelve-year-old was going to die."
Baud says Rossi fractured his skull and burst an artery when he fell. It was an injury similar to the one that claimed the life of actress Natasha Richardson, Baud adds.
Carson called a neurosurgeon in the state capital of Melbourne for help; he talked Carson through the procedure which he had never before attempted by telling him where to aim the drill and how deep to go.
"All of a sudden, the emergency ward was turned into an operating theater," Michael Rossi told Fairfax Radio on Wednesday. "We didn't see anything, but we heard the noises, heard the drill. It was just one of those surreal experiences."
The procedure took just over a minute, said anesthetist Dr. David Tynan, who assisted Carson.
"It was pretty scary. You obviously worry, (are) you pushing hard enough or pushing too hard, but then when some blood came out after we'd gone through the skull, we realized we'd made the right decision," Tynan told Australian Broadcasting Corp.
"This was a once-in-a-career thing that happens to very few people," Tynan told Baud.
Rossi was airlifted to a larger hospital in Melbourne and released Tuesday his 13th birthday.
Baud reports he could be back on his bike in two months.
Carson was modest about his feat.
"It is not a personal achievement, it is just a part of the job and I had a very good team of people helping me," he told The Australian.
Carson downplayed his hero status to Baud, saying, "General practitioners in country towns do procedures all the time."
Michael Rossi was more effusive.
"He saved our son's life," he said.