30-year-old Shannon Malloy, critically injured in a car accident, skull separating from her spine, has survived to tell her story. Doctors call her recovery a miracle.
A car crash slammed her into the dashboard. Her skull separated from her spine, although her skin, spinal cord and other internal organs remained intact. The rare condition is known clinically as internal decapitation, and it left her with no control over her head.
Surgeons said her injuries were different from a broken neck, which usually occurs when vertebrae in the neck are cracked or broken. In her case, her skull had been knocked completely off the top of the spinal column.
The spinal cord carrying all the vital nerves between the brain and the rest of the body is often severed in severe neck injuries, causing paralysis and often leaving victims as quadriplegics who are unable to move at all, like the former Superman, the late Christopher Reeve.
Miraculously her spinal cord was not damaged. She can walk and has the full use of her arms and hands. Surgeons at the Denver Spine Centre in Colorado reattached Miss Malloys skull to the top of her spinal column with five screws through her neckbones. Then they held her head steady by screwing a steel 'halo' around the top of her skull which was attached to her shoulders by rods.
Nearly four months after the crash, the surgeons have removed the halo and a neck brace that had also helped to hold Malloy's head steady.
Dr. Gary Ghiselli, an orthopedic spine surgeon at the Denver Spine Center, said he and his colleagues had never seen such an injury in someone still living.
'It's a miracle that she was able to survive from the actual accident,' Ghiselli said. 'It's a miracle that she's made the progress that she's made.'
'I've seen it once before,' Ghiselli said, 'and, unfortunately, the patient didn't make it.'
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