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Skull and spine reconnected in 16-month-old boy

A 16-month-old Australian boy is on the mend, smiling, eating, and walking, only two weeks after his skull was separated from his spine in a head-on car collision.

Jaxon Taylor was airlifted from the site of the crash in New South Wales to Brisbane where he was seen by Australia's "godfather" of spinal surgery, Dr. Geoff Askin. Askin said in a news report from Seven Network Australia that the force of the crash had pulled the child's head and neck apart.

7 News | Toddler spinal surgery

A toddler has undergone delicate surgery to reattach his head to his neck following a serious car accident.Specialist staff pulled off what was thought to be impossible. The boy will now be able to lead a completely normal life after his marathon surgery.7 News reporter Katrina Blowers has the details.Latest from 7 News: http://yhoo.it/1HYefMw7 News video: http://yhoo.it/1V97pbWLatest news on Twitter: twitter.com/7NewsMelbourne

Posted by 7 News Melbourne on Tuesday, September 29, 2015

According to the Seven Network report, the child underwent a 6-hour surgery during which a halo was attached to his skull. The surgeon then reattached his vertebrae using a tiny piece of wire. A piece of Jaxon's rib was used to graft the two vertebrae back together.

Askin said it was the worst injury of its kind he'd ever seen and that a lot of children would not have survived such an injury, or if they did, they'd never move or breathe again without help.

Some have referred to the injury as an "internal decapitation," but Mayo Clinic orthopedic surgeon and spine specialist Dr. Michael Yaszemski told CBS News, "In general, this is not a day-to-day term we use in medicine."

Yaszemski said medical experts refer to it as a fracture dislocation of the C1 and C2 vertebrae, or a traumatic anterolisthesis of C1 and C2.

"It was a forward slippage [of C1 on C2] due to trauma," Yaszemski said. "I agree with Dr. Askin that it's quite remarkable this spinal cord works at all. We often see these types of injuries on post mortem exam because the arms and legs get paralyzed and the nerve that makes the diaphragm work comes off the spine and the patient can't breathe."

Yaszemski said babies are very resilient, that their bones are still made up of cartilage and their spinal cords can often withstand a magnitude of injury that would paralyze an adult.

Jaxon is due to head home any day now and will wear his halo head brace for another eight weeks, Seven Network reported.

"It is a miracle," Jaxon's mom, Rylea Taylor, who was driving the car with Jaxon and his sister when they collided with an 18-year-old driver, told Seven Network.

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