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Woman survives internal decapitation, thanks Phoenix fire rescuers

PHOENIX — Some members of the Phoenix Fire Department got a much-deserved “thank you” Tuesday for their life-saving work.

Krystal Lane, 24, walked into Station 24 of the Phoenix Fire Department near 43rd Avenue and Thomas Road on her own power and thanked the men and women who saved her life nearly a year ago.

On May 30, 2013, Lane was nearly killed when her car slammed into a street sweeper early on Interstate 10 near 43rd Avenue. She suffered severe injuries in the accident, including internal decapitation.

“It’s a miracle. There’s no question about it,” Dr. John Gallagher, EMS medical director for the Phoenix Fire Department, said. “For this to have occurred and for her to survive this is very, very unusual.”

An internal decapitation involves tearing ligaments and fracturing the bones in the neck that can cause the skull to separate from the spine, Gallagher said.

“Most people don’t survive this type of injury because their head gets pushed up and their carotid arteries are torn,” he said.

When rescuers arrived on that unfortunate night, they had to cut her out of her mangled vehicle and carefully keep her head and body aligned.

“When the crews arrived on scene she was unconscious, piled up at the bottom of the floorboard, entangled in the equipment that’s in the car,” Phoenix Fire Cpt. Jonathan Jacobs said. “(The crews) went to work and did a phenomenal job of extricating her out of there safely.”

After the accident, Lane spent three weeks in a coma and has since undergone physical therapy to be able to walk and talk again, but she said that hasn’t been the hardest part of her recovery.

“At the beginning, knowing it wasn’t my normal life,” Lane said. “Not being able to, as much as I hate it, take the bus somewhere or go to the movies with my friends … the hardest part was not being myself.”

Lane said she was grateful for the work the first responders did to save her life and is glad she can thank them herself.

“I wouldn’t have been able to stand here and talk to you and explain my story,” she said to the firefighters. “So I’m … really grateful for all of you.”