Alabama woman miraculously survives internal decapitation


HAYDEN, Ala. (WIAT) — Diane Eubank feels as though she has been given a second chance at life after a horrific accident that happened last Christmas Eve.

“I was internally decapitated all the way through,” Eubank said as she drew a line across her neck with her finger. “My ear was ripped off, my arms tore back, I have some scars on my chest and my jaw has been broken.”

Eubank was riding around her family’s property in Blount County on an ATV. It’s something she did all the time. Jonas, a German exchange student who was staying with her family at the time, was on the back. The details of what followed are still patchy for Eubank.

She doesn’t remember some things, even the week before the accident. But somehow, Eubank remembers the seconds before she and Jonas plowed into a barbed wire fence. She also remembers being terrified that Jonas had been hurt or even killed. She would later learn that he had fallen off of the back of the ATV, but was not injured.

“You know, I think when I really opened up my life some someone else’s, God gave me that second chance,” she said. “He sent me to UAB.”

“So in her case, it was direct trauma to the neck,” explained Dr. Steven Theiss, chair of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine. “So she went into the barbed wire fence and the force of the fence, it lifted her head off her neck.”

Doctors told CBS 42 that all but about 30 percent of internal decapitations are fatal. However, Eubank’s spinal cord was miraculously not damaged.

“As a friend of mine likes to say, a spine surgeon, it’s essentially like attaching a bowling ball and holding it with a string,” Theiss said.

Eubank was in surgery at UAB for over 10 hours, seeing team after team of doctors. Theiss said her survival was largely due to the heroic efforts in the field. There was a state trooper who just happened to be near her home at the time of the accident. He heard the alert go out over the radio and called for a helicopter to be dispatched before first responders even arrived. Jonas’ mother, a yoga instructor trained in first aid, also helped to stabilize Eubank.

Eubank said she was heavily medicated for at least the first week after the accident. She mostly remembers floating in and out of consciousness. Her doctors would often ask her to wiggle her toes, but Eubank didn’t understand why at the time. What she didn’t realize was that doctors had warned her family that it was possible that she would be a quadriplegic. The toe movement was a promising sign that she could walk again one day.

Months later, and Eubank is learning to walk again. She still has pain and some limited motion, but she is grateful. She has forged an incredible bond with her team of doctors at UAB, and the people who came to her aid in the moments after her accident. She said that her family has also rallied around her to help her with simple tasks throughout her recovery.

“I would say, God do with me what you will,” Eubank said of her life before the accident. “I would be at work or something and I never really impacted anybody. Now, God has given me a second chance at life. I can impact somebody.”

While Eubank doesn’t remember the circumstances leading up to her accident, she is encouraging people who ride ATVs to drive slowly and think about their actions.

Eubank is taking ownership of her life again. She is currently planning her daughter’s wedding at her home for mid-September.

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