Ending up in a car accident is a possibility every time you enter a vehicle. The odds are slim, especially if you're a good driver (or riding with one) and everyone obeys the rules of the road, but like anything else, there's always a chance for random misfortune.
If you're lucky, when you're odds are up and an accident comes your way, it'll be a minor bender where everyone walks away safely. Sometimes, though, tragedy strikes, and you're involved in a major accident.
The possibility for injuries or even death in this instance is very real, but thankfully not the case in this story of one family and their son's miraculous recovery from a catastrophic crash.
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Your Body Is Magic
The human body is an incredibly complex, highly intricate series of systems that all work together to make you run as you should. We're a million little biological miracles wrapped up in a blanket of a body, and though some peoples' cocoons function differently than others, that alone is something to be grateful for.
It's very hard to make it through life without some sort of event that harms that body of yours, though. Broken bones, getting sick, muscle cramps, any size and severity of injury or illness has the ability to permanently alter the way we exist in our skin.
Back From The Brink
Sometimes, it's during these periods of danger that the body really proves itself to be the miraculous vessel it is, granting people just enough lenience and strength to fully recover from the traumatic harm that befell them.
That's what happened to one family in Australia after they were struck by another vehicle, resulting in a brutal crash. The youngest son suffered an unimaginable injury, but left with an even more unimaginable outcome.
A Life-Changing Moment
Australian mother Rylea Taylor had the scare of a lifetime after a high-speed car accident left her 16-month-old son, Jaxon, with what's known as 'internal decapitation'—which is just as scary as it sounds.
Internal decapitation is when the spine is detached from the head but with no sever to the skin or external wound. It dislocates entirely within the body.
Jaxon's spine was separated as he rode in his mother's car alongside his nine-year-old sister. They were going approximately 70 miles per hour when another vehicle hit them head-on.
The Panic Was Immediate
Rylea rushed to her children's aid but immediately feared the worst when she rescued Jaxon from the wreckage.
"The second I pulled him out, I knew that he — I knew that his neck was broken," she told 7 New Melbourne.
Often, a broken neck leads to death, as does an internal decapitation. In fact, a 2010 study regarding upper-neck dislocations (what would also be considered internal decapitation) showed that 68% of people who experience one die before the injury can even be determined, with another 22% dying at the hospital.
For those who live, severe paralysis is a major risk.
Time Was Of The Essence
Jaxon was airlifted to a hospital in Brisbane and rushed to spinal surgeon Geoff Askin.
"A lot of children wouldn't survive that injury in the first place," Askin said. "And if they did and they were resuscitated, they may never move or breathe again."
He didn't allow this to dissuade him, instead strapping in for the six-hour surgery to save Jaxon's life, involving over 20 doctors. The operation involved using a fragment of one of Jaxon's ribs to graft his dislocated vertebrae back together. One wrong move could have left Jaxon paralyzed forever, or worse.
In The Clear
"It's a pretty adrenaline-producing sort of operation," Askin said. “You don’t know if the spinal cord is still working till the patient wakes up the next day.”
Thankfully, Jaxon did wake up the following day completely healthy. Not only was he still alive, but he still had a full range of motion: no severed nerves and no paralysis present.
He received a custom-made medical device known as a 'halo' to keep his head and neck in place as the bones healed, which he had to wear for the eight weeks that followed.
Just three weeks after the accident, Jaxon was already walking again, only needing to hold his mother's finger for support. That was also when he was cleared to return home, transferring to his hometown's much smaller hospital. He needed no physiotherapy after the removal of the halo and got to continue living a normal life.
Well, save for one thing. He's not allowed to engage in dangerous sports such as rugby, nor participate in any other activities that could produce whiplash. A small price to pay in exchange for one's life.
Against All Odds
Askin had said at the time that Jaxon's injury was the worst case of it he'd ever seen. Jaxon's survival hinged on the fact that his spinal cord miraculously bent rather than tearing, making his repair and recovery possible.
"How the spinal cord managed to go around that corner and survive is a miracle really," Askin said.
That, combined with the many doctors who stuck by him and executed his surgery perfectly, is what led to his survival.
"He's just really, really lucky.”
A Better Future For Jaxon
The state of modern medicine, able to rescue a child from something so severe, is astounding. As mentioned, this type of injury has a high mortality rate, but advancements made in the medical field in the last decade alone have majorly increased the survivability of internal decapitation.
So much so that Askin is contributing to a brand-new manual on standard care practices for these types of injuries in children.
His insights include what instruments are best for exposing the spine, what type of scanning to do, and information on creating 3D models from CT scans to better plan operations.
A Better Future For All
We are constantly learning, constantly evolving, and constantly bringing new ideas to the table for the betterment of society. There's still much we don't know in the world of medicine when it comes to proper care for certain injuries, conditions, and illnesses, but the strides that have been made even in recent years are not to be discounted.
Thanks to tireless work from those who quite literally see people at their most broken, Jaxon survived, and so will many other children who sustain a scary injury like his. When the body fails us, it's reassuring to know that we're receiving better care than ever to fix it.