A brain cancer survivor has managed to beat the odds twice and escape with his life after suffering a very rare and dangerous cervical spine injury.
The patient in question is 22-year-old Brock Meister from Plymouth, Indiana, who has managed to pull through an often-fatal type of injury known as atlanto-occipital dislocation, or internal decapitation.
According to Science Direct, atlanto-occipital dislocation “is the most unstable and dangerous injury of the cervical spine” and refers to the complete severing of the ligaments that keep the skull attached to the spine.
This type of injury has a high rate of mortality, “with death often occurring immediately as a result of respiratory arrest” caused by damage of the lower brain stem, notes the media outlet, citing the Handbook of Clinical Neurology.
As Live Science points out, most people who suffer an atlanto-occipital dislocation — named for the “atlas,” the topmost vertebral bone of the spine, and the “occiput,” the lower part of the back of the skull — either die instantly or on the way to the hospital.
In Meister’s case, however, the traumatic injury not only didn’t kill him but left him “living a fairly normal life,” states a report from the Beacon Health System, the company owning the hospital where the young man was treated.
A Car Crash That Almost Cost Him His Life
Meister’s terrible ordeal came after the 22-year-old was involved in a major car accident this January. The young man was in the passenger seat when the car hit a patch of ice and flipped over on his side, throwing Meister sideways toward the door.
The force of the impact made his head punch through the car window, “his body leaving the seat and momentarily becoming airborne,” details the Beacon Health System in a blog post.
The nearly fatal car crash left Meister internally decapitated and barely clinging to life.
Brock Meister survived a traumatic injury that most people die from. In January, a car crash almost took his life: https://t.co/sOkgzuxtDg
— WNDU (@WNDU) August 1, 2018
Luckily for Meister, one of his friends had the presence of mind to hold him down and prevent him from moving and making his injury even worse, notes Live Science. The paramedics who arrived on the scene also took extra care in stabilizing the young man before he was rushed to Indiana’s Memorial Hospital of South Bend.
The Second-Ever Patient With Internal Decapitation To Make It To The Hospital Alive
According to the sources, Meister’s case is only the second time that an internally decapitated patient is brought alive to Memorial Hospital of South Bend.
This type of injury is more common in children, given that their heads are relatively larger for their body size, shows a 2016 article published by Live Science, detailing the case of a 4-year-old boy who also managed to survive atlanto-occipital dislocation.
— Live Science (@LiveScience) June 8, 2016
The young man was treated by Dr. Kashif Shaikh, a neurosurgeon with the Beacon Medical Group. But this was not their first encounter, reports Fox News.
Dr. Shaikh was the same surgeon who helped treat Meister when he was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor in 2012. Known as grade III germinoma, the tumor was discovered at the center of his brain when Meister was just 16 years old.
Commenting on his patient’s case, Dr. Shaikh. said that “some people are blessed.”
“Brock somehow survived a brain tumor as a child, and now, only a few years later, he has survived an almost universally fatal injury. It is truly incredible.”
But the road to recovery has been incredibly hard. The 22-year-old underwent surgery to re-align the severed connection between his skull and spine, and now has a skull plate, rods, and spinal screws that keep his head stabilized.
— Live Science (@LiveScience) August 3, 2018
His broken body is still in the process of healing and Meister goes to physical therapy twice a week.
“I have fought for my life this time around, and some days I feel like I still am. God has put me through some crazy stuff, and he’s really testing me,” Brock said in a statement.
“It was kind of scary at first, but I have more movement than I thought I would, so that’s good. I’m just thankful to be here, so that’s all that matters,” he added.