Colorado man survives rare ‘internal decapitation’

LAKEWOOD, Colorado (KUSA) – There is little about the night of October 25 that John Boyer would like to remember.

In fact, he can’t remember a thing about that night, but he’s been reminded of it every day since.

“Honestly, the only thing I know about the accident is what I’ve been told,” Boyer said. “I was diagnosed with an internal decapitation.”

It was a typical Saturday night for Boyer, riding on C-470 in the backseat of an SUV being driven by a friend, who happened to be fighting off sleep.

“He was going about 60 mph,” Boyer said.

Boyer’s friend eventually lost the fight, as well as control of the car.

“He overcorrected and went over the guardrail,” Boyer said. “The car started flipping in the forward position.”

Seatbeltless, Boyer and three of his friends were ejected from the car, injuring the 21-year-old in a way that leaves most of its victims dead.

Medically it’s known Atlanto-Occipital Dislocation, which is a scientific way of saying Boyer’s skull had become internally detached from his spine.

It’s an injury that is “rarely survivable,” according to the National Institutes of Health.

But Boyer did survive, becoming a rare case in the process.

“Mr. Boyer’s very lucky in that he was able to survive No. 1, the injury, and No. 2, that he was neurologically intact,” said Dr. Douglas Wong, Boyer’s surgeon. “You could tell that’s a lot more spacing than normally is there.

Dr. Wong said normally a skull is spaced at the joint to the spine about one millimeter. Boyer’s skull was approximately six millimeters away from the spine.

“I’ll never stop regretting it, mostly because of what I put my friends and family through,” Boyer said. “All it took was putting my seatbelt on.”

But what Boyer can’t remember of that night has led to something he said he’ll now never be able to forget.

“It’s something I could’ve prevented,” he said. “I can’t stress enough how it really was just luck that I didn’t die.”

Boyer is expected to make a full recovery.

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