The Short of It
A 4-year-old boy survives a gruesome injury called internal decapitation.
Only 1 percent of people who are internally decapitated survive. Killian is one of them. His medical odyssey began after his fourth birthday party while he was traveling home to Nevada from Idaho with his mom, Brandy Gonzalez, during a brutal hail storm.
She told CNN, "I'm trying to turn and I'm just sliding at this point. And then bam, and we hit. And the last thing I remember is looking back at my baby."
Killian was badly hurt when their car collided into another vehicle. Not only did the boy's skull detach from his spine, which is known as being "clinically decapitated," but he also ruptured his spleen, and broke ribs and his arm.
"I kept talking to him and trying to get him to wake up," Gonzalez told The New York Times. All her son could say was, "Momma."
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Luckily, local police officer Joel Woodard and his wife Leah saw the accident.
"We could hear a kid screaming, a little baby screaming. And my husband took a hitch. Somebody had a hitch. And he smashed out the back window of Brandy's vehicle," Leah said.
When she saw Killian was badly hurt, Woodard told The New York Times, "As a mom, that just goes right to your heart. My immediate instinct was: 'You have to help that little guy.'"
She held the little boy's head still for a half an hour until paramedics arrived, and that is what very likely saved his life.
"My first instinct would have been to cradle the little guy, but clearly that would have been the wrong choice," she said.
Woodard even talked with Killian as she held him still in an effort to keep him alert. Topics of conversation in the impossibly difficult situation included his strawberry birthday cake and a toy dinosaur. At one point, according to Woodard, Killian said, "I don't hurt anymore. I am all done."
Woodard admits she was panicking inside, "And 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."
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But she did help. Although doctors told Gonzalez that four of the six ligaments connecting the boy's skull and spine were stretched by an inch as a result of the accident, they sprang back. Incredibly, Killian is expected to make a full recovery and is currently eating and walking, without having to undergo surgery. He's even about one-third of an inch taller than before.
Gonzalez, who was also badly hurt in the crash, hadn't seen her son since the accident happened in late May because they were confined to different hospitals. But Killian was released Sunday, and they've been reunited.
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Gonzalez says her son's injuries would've been so much worse if Woodard had not acted the way she did, and she plans to always remain friends with Woodard.
"She saved my baby. She gave me him back," she said.
For her part, Woodard says, "No mom should lose their child, and she gets to have her boy; that's really awesome."
If you want to help Killian and his mom during their recovery, visit their GoFundMe page.