‘Internally decapitated’ woman continues miraculous recovery

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- After a horrific car crash this past August, Lila DeLine from Cedar Springs is making huge progress in her recovery.

The accident left DeLine internally decapitated. Her skull came off her spine," explained Mary Free Bed physical therapist Kristy Simpson. That is usually fatal. But after life-saving surgeries and months of specialized rehab, Deline is home and doing better every day.

She is now walking, talking and getting back to being herself.

The accident that changed her life happened right in front of her own home. “My husband heard me coming, and he said that he had gotten about probably halfway down the driveway when this woman just hit me,” DeLine remembers.

In the blink of an eye, she was fighting for her life.

Once she got to the hospital, she could only communicate by blinking. “We knew that cognitively she was in there, and the reason she wasn’t moving wasn’t because of severe brain injury, it was the spine,” said Dr. Sanjay Patra, neurosurgeon and director of brain trauma.

An team at Spectrum Health performed several surgeries to realign DeLine’s neck and re-attach her skull using screws, plates and rods.

“What all of my surgeons did was …. well, to quote my favorite movie ‘inconceivable’,”DeLine said.

One surgeon was Dr. James Stubbart of Orthopaedic Associates of Michigan, (OAM), who said that, while the procedure certainly was daunting, he was optimistic.

“I don’t know, I truly believe in miracles. I always have, but I especially do now.”

Another unexpected miracle: DeLine walked out of the hospital on her own in October.

She is still works with physical therapists at Mary Free Bed to regain her range of motion, strength, and flexibility. She says the hardest part of her recovery now is asking for help with everyday tasks.

“Laundry, dishes … dinner takes me twice as long," she said. "I still make good dinners, don’t get that wrong. They just take forever.”

DeLine said her accident is the perfect reminder for all drivers out there to pay attention. It could very well save a life.

She also credits the positive attitudes of her entire care team at Spectrum Health and Mary Free Bed for getting her to where she is today.

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