Shannon Malloy, 30, from Fremont, Nebraska was involved in a serious car accident on January 25. When the car crashed near Tecumseh, about 50 miles outside of Lincoln, the force of her head hitting the passenger’s side dashboard separated her skull from her spine, causing what doctors call atlantooccipital dislocation, or internal decapitation. Amazingly, she survived this otherwise fatal injury and has made huge strides in the last four months.

This injury is often suffered by children and usually not discovered until an autopsy is administered. However, surviving the injury is becoming more and more common because of better on-scene medical treatment in which paramedics administer faster protection of the airway and better spinal isolation. In fact, more than 100 people who have suffered the injury may be up and about. The injury is similar to the neck injury suffered by actor Christopher Reeve, though Malloy’s was less severe. In fact, Malloy remembers no pain during the accident, and it wasn’t even discovered that her skull had been dislocated until the day after the accident when she was unable to breathe without an air tube. She spent three weeks in intensive care and two weeks in rehabilitation before walking out of the hospital and heading to Denver, Colorado where she is staying with her mother. Her other injuries included a broken pelvis and ankle. She was fitted with a halo which was removed on April 13, but she can still only turn her head an inch on each side. Her eyes remain crossed, and she is unable to swallow even fluids.

Additional surgeries have been put on hold as her insurance company failed to contact her after the accident. She was unemployed at the time of the accident, and Medicaid keeps sending her away with more paperwork to fill out. So she has decided to sue the insurance company. Until her legal matters can be taken care of, however, she is struggling to get treatment for the side effects to her recovery. Recently, Malloy was hospitalized for an infection around her feeding tube which is something she has been trying to get an appointment for for weeks. Once she is more fully recovered, she plans to write about her ordeal and tell people what it’s like to have been decapitated and lived to tell about it.

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