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4-year-old survives internal decapitation, no surgery needed

A 4-year-old boy is expected to make a full recovery after doctors say he was internally decapitated in a car crash in Idaho. And for that, they're thanking a good Samaritan who held his head perfectly still until paramedics arrived, CBS Boise affiliate KBOI reports.

Internal decapitation occurs when the skull and spine are separated and the head is essentially just holding on by a thread -- like the spinal cord.

Less than 1 percent survive the injury. Those who do usually require extensive surgery and must wear a halo brace. But amazingly, not in this child's case.

There was a hail storm going on when when Killian and his mother, Brandy Gonzalez, decided to make the trip back home to Nevada after celebrating Killian's fourth birthday. Ice on the road caused the vehicle to skid out of control and crash head-on into another car.

At the same time, a local police officer and his wife were coming down the hill and saw the crash unfold in front of them. As the first ones on the scene, they quickly got out of the car to see if there were any survivors. That's when they heard a little boy screaming from the car.

Leah Woodward says they were unable to get into the car because of locked doors. Her husband then took a hitch and smashed out the back window of the vehicle.

With a little guidance from her husband, Woodward held the little boy's head as still as she could.

"I'm trying to stay calm but inside I'm panicking," she said. "I'm thinking I don't know what I'm doing, and it was the worst feeling I've ever had to not know how to help."

Woodward held his head straight for over half an hour, a move that likely saved his life.

Now, Killian is receiving treatment in a pediatric unit while his mother recovers in another hospital across town. They haven't seen each other since the accident.

"It's just so hard because I'm in the same town and I haven't been able to see him," Gonzalez said. "It's just hard knowing he's in so much pain and I can't be there."

Killian ruptured his spleen, broke his arm and multiple ribs. But the worst injury he suffered was clinical decapitation, a rare condition where his skull separated from his spine.

Killian survived the crash without surgery and is doing well. Courtesy of Leah Woodward via KBOI

Killian is expected to make a full recovery. He's eating, walking, and even sitting up by himself -- all without surgery.

Gonzalez says the boy is doing amazingly well. "He's shocked everyone there. They keep telling me he's the talk of the hospital," she said.

Her spirits are high, despite breaking three limbs. She shattered her ankle, broke her arm, femur and top of her tibia. "There's a reason we're here and we're just going to try every day to figure out what that reason is."

She and Woodward now share a special bond. "She saved my baby, she gave him back," Gonzalez said.

"No mom should lose their child and she gets to have her boy. That's really awesome," Woodward said.

A Go Fund Me page has been created for Killian and Brandy Gonzalez to help pay for medical expenses.

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