Jackson Taylor is laughing and kicking soccer balls again, just two weeks after a car accident that severed two vertebrae in his neck. The spinal surgery that saved the 16-month-old Australian toddler is being hailed across the internet as a miracle.
“The second I pulled him out I knew that his neck was broken,” mother Rylea Taylor tells 7 News Melbourne in a video. She had been driving with her son and daughter at about 70 miles per hour when they collided head-on with another car.
Surgeon Geoff Askin told 7 News that it was the worst injury of that kind he had seen. “A lot of children wouldn’t survive that injury in the first place. And if they did, and they were resuscitated, they may never move or breathe again.”
The reason Jackson’s situation was hopeful is that while the bones of his spine were severed, his spinal cord somehow avoided major damage. “How the spinal cord has managed to go around that corner and survive is a miracle, really,” Askin says.
The six-hour surgery involved using a piece of Jackson’s rib to graft the two vertebrae back together, tied with a small piece of wire. He will wear the “halo” device to keep everything in its place for about two months.
While the surgeon’s skill is in no doubt, the real miracle of this event is that Jackson’s spinal cord wasn’t permanently damaged or severed in the crash, despite the broken neck. Doctors have figures out how to repair bones, but nerve damage is a lot more complicated. That’s why neck injuries so often result in life-long paralysis.
Recent advancement in nerve regeneration technology could mean that, one day, spinal cord injuries won’t be so devastating.
One Italian surgeon believes he’s figured out the secret to healing a severed spinal cord — he’s planning to perform the world’s first head transplant in 2017.
Other doctors doubt such a thing is possible. But maybe today’s medical miracle will be tomorrow’s standard. It wouldn’t be the first time.