Miracles do happen. That's what doctors said about 30-year-old Shannon Malloy.
A car crash in Nebraska on Jan. 25 threw Malloy up against the vehicle's dashboard. In the process, her skull became separated from her spine. The clinical term for her condition is called internal decapitation.
"I remember the impact and then I had no control over my head," said Malloy. "I wasn't focused so much on the pain. I just kept thinking, 'I have to stay alive.'"
Dr. Gary Ghiselli, an Orthopedic Spine Surgeon at the Denver Spine Center, said Malloy's will to survive is what saved her.
"I've seen it once before and, unfortunately, the patient didn't make it," said Ghiselli.
Five screws were drilled into Malloy's neck. Four more were drilled into her head to keep it stabilized. Then a thing called a halo -- rods and a circular metal bar -- was attached for added support. It's not exactly a pain-free procedure.
"My skull slipped off my neck about five times. Every time they tried to screw this to my head, I would slip," said Malloy.
Rebuilding Malloy's neck strength was a priority, but there were also other complications.
"I had a fractured skull, swollen brain stem, bleeding in my brain, GI tube in my stomach, can't swallow, and nerve damage in my eyes (because they cross)," said Malloy.
Doctors are working on that but she has been lucky enough to get the halo removed. She videotaped the experience for 7NEWS.
"It only took about 8 minutes to take the whole thing off," said Malloy.
"Wow! There's my girl again," said her mom, Robin Frazee.
Frazee said she's amazed that her daughter has found the strength to survive the ordeal. Frazee remembers the first few days in the hospital as "touch and go." One doctor continued to tell the family to prepare for the worst.
"It was just really scary because he just kept saying we've never seen this injury before in a person that's alive and you need to say your goodbyes," said Frazee.
But, goodbye won't be happening anytime soon.
"Oh my God, it's a miracle," said Malloy.
"It's a miracle that she was able to survive from the actual accident. It's a miracle that she's made the progress that she's made," said Ghiselli.
Doctors will continue to work on Malloy's swallowing and vision.
Malloy said a big step in her recovery progress was the removal of her halo and it's made her hopeful that a full recovery is in sight.
"I would ideally like to be fully recovered. I know that's not going to be a great possibility. I could come real close though," said Malloy.
Malloy still has a long, costly recovery ahead. A fund has been set up in Malloy's name at Wells Fargo banks. You can make donations at any location under the "The Benefit of Shannon Malloy."
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