Surgeons have successfully removed four sewing needles that were inside the lung and close to the heart of a Brazilian toddler. They were allegedly put there by his stepfather during a series of bizarre rituals.
Hospital spokeswoman Susy Moreno says the surgery lasted about three hours and that the 2-year-old boy is in stable condition. Dozens more needles remain inside the boy, but the four removed were considered life-threatening.
Moreno says doctors at the hospital in the northeastern city of Salvador will evaluate the boy's progress before deciding when to perform at least two more surgeries to remove needles.
The surgery conducted Friday evening did not last as long as the six hours that doctors predicted it would take.
Police say the boy’s stepfather confessed to pushing supposedly “blessed” sewing needles deep into the child because his lover told him to while in trances.
The rituals were performed over a period of a month to try to keep the couple together, the stepfather told police.
Roberto Carlos Magalhaes, a 30-year-old bricklayer, told detectives the woman would enter into trances and give him commands to insert the needles, police inspector Helder Fernandes Santana said. The stepfather told police the rituals happened every few days for a full month, with him inserting several needles during each session.
The lover, Angelina Ribeiro dos Santos, paid to have the needles measuring up to 2 inches (5 centimeters) blessed by a woman who practiced the Afro-Brazilian religion Candomble, and convinced Magalhaes that inserting them into the boy would somehow allow them to be together, Santana said.
Authorities initially estimated the boy had as many as 50 needles inside him. After batteries of tests were performed on the boy, doctors now believe there are closer to 30 needles inside him, but they don’t know for sure.
“They haven’t focused on how many there are because they are concentrating on the most dangerous ones,” Moreno said.
The boy is also suffering from an infection from the needle that pierced his heart, but received antibiotics and was in stable condition before going into surgery, she said.
Magalhaes and dos Santos were both arrested, though no charges were filed.
Dos Santos is not believed to be a member of any religious or occult group, and authorities believe she came up with the idea of the rituals on her own, Santana said.
The two were taken to an undisclosed lockup for their own protection after a mob threw stones at the police station where they were being held. It was not immediately clear whether they had legal representation.
Authorities also detained the woman who blessed the needles so she could be questioned, but Santana has said he expects she will be released without charge because she did not know how they were being used.
The boy’s mother, a maid, took him to a hospital in the town of Ibotirama on Dec. 10, saying he was complaining of pain.
After X-rays revealed the cause, the mother told police she didn’t know how the needles got inside her son, whose name was not released because of his age. The boy was later transferred to the much larger hospital in the coastal city of Salvador.
Police and doctors concluded it would have been impossible for the boy to have ingested the needles — which have also been found in a lung, in his left leg and spread throughout his abdomen.
Afro-Brazilian religions practiced in Brazil have no ceremonies, rituals or practices involving harm to people, said Nelson Inocencio, director of African-Brazilian studies at the University of Brasilia.
He worried that the incident could hurt the image of the religions, of which Candomble is the most popular, and concentrated most in Bahia state.