A 4-year-old boy might not have survived a horrific car accident if two Good Samaritans had not happened upon the scene, reports Boise station KBOI. The accident occurred when Brandy Gonzalez was driving from Nevada to Idaho with son Killian on May 22, and their car smashed into another after sliding on ice. "We could hear a kid screaming, a little baby screaming," recalls Leah Woodward, who saw the accident with her husband and stopped to help. Her husband, Joel, is a police officer who has first-responder training, notes the Washington Post. After he recognized that Killian had a spinal injury and stabilized the boy's head, his wife held it straight until paramedics arrived about 30 minutes later. Killian had suffered from what's known informally as internal decapitation, which occurs "when the ligaments, muscles and joints that connect the base of the skull to the top of the spine are damaged," explains the New York Times.
The survival rate is low, but today, the boy is eating, sitting up, and walking on his own. The injury happens more frequently to young children, typically in high-speed accidents, because that area of their bodies is still developing, notes the Times. Killian's family says doctors expect he'll make a full recovery, which is all the more remarkable because he didn't need surgery or a halo brace—the usual necessities for survivors of such an injury. “She saved my baby,” his mom says of Leah Woodward. “She gave him back.” As for Gonzalez herself, she broke her arm, femur, tibia, and ankle, but both she and her son are out of the hospital, notes Leah Woodward in a Facebook update. "There's a reason we're here and we're just going to try every day to figure out what that reason is," says Gonzalez. Killian's family has set up a GoFundMe page. (A 16-month-old survived a similar injury.)