UMC Children’s hospital saves child who suffered internal decapitation

UMC Children’s hospital saves child who suffered internal decapitation

LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - University Medical Center has the only Level 1 Trauma Center in the region. So, it is no surprise Bethany Lee was airlifted to Lubbock from Hobbs, New Mexico.

The real surprise is the condition she was in. Bethany had suffered in internal decapitation.

“There was a separation of the head from the spine bone that connects the head to the spine and the rest of the body,” said Thivakorn (Tiva) Kasemsri, M.D., M.S., FAAP, also known as Dr. Tiva. “Sort of like a bobble head.”

Bethany Lee survived internal decapitation after a car crash thanks to University Medical Center.
Bethany Lee survived internal decapitation after a car crash thanks to University Medical Center. (Source: Family members)

The day of the crash, it was supposed to be a quick trip. Several kids piled into the teacher’s car to get a book that one child had left at home. Bethany Lee crawled back to the third row and buckled up.

The vehicle they were in was t-boned. Paramedics rushed to the scene in Hobbs and called the principal, who is also Bethany’s dad, Todd Lee.

“I went over there,” Todd said. “The ambulance was there at the helicopter. I stepped in the door and looked at my daughter. I didn’t recognize her.”

Bethany Lee was nearly unrecognizable after the crash
Bethany Lee was nearly unrecognizable after the crash (Source: Lee family)

Dr. Tiva said, “He prayed that if this is her time that she would go be with her God peacefully. I mean he wished that at that time. That’s how bad it was.”

Before the accident, Bethany was fearless. She loved anything on wheels, and she loved to go fast. The higher the better. After the accident, Todd and Christina Lee found themselves at UMC, a massive complex for two people who had never stepped into a hospital.

“All this was in God’s control,” Todd said. “It could have happened to one of the other ones.”

But it didn’t. The teacher hurt her arm, but no other child in the car was injured. And internal decapitation was just one of three injuries that could have killed Bethany.

Along with the internal decapitation, she had two severe skull fractures and she sustained severe brain injury.

Bethany was at UMC for 23 days and had to relearn how to do everything - even laugh.
Bethany was at UMC for 23 days and had to relearn how to do everything - even laugh. (Source: University Medical Center)

The doctors couldn’t even try to fix her until all the swelling went down.

“For days, we were just sitting there, not knowing if she was going to make it, or be paralyzed , we didn’t know,” said Todd.

There was a small bone ripped from the base of her skull that could be seen on the x-rays. And that is where the miracle began to take shape.

Dr. Laszlo Nagy, a pediatric neurosurgeon took a tiny rib from Bethany and built that into the bone that was missing; to steady the head.

“Dr. Nagy was spectacular in repairing that, really,” said Dr. Tiva.

Bethany Lee 10 months after the car crash.
Bethany Lee 10 months after the car crash. (Source: University Medical Center)

Bethany still faced a long road to recovery. She was in UMC for 23 days and had to relearn everything - even how to laugh.

“It was like starting over with a new child. A new baby and you rejoice when they start walking, the little things,” said Todd.

But now, 10 months after the accident, this family is whole again.

Bethany Lee and family
Bethany Lee and family (Source: University Medical Center)

“Before the accident, I didn’t understand the Children’s Miracle Network,” Todd said. “You don’t understand what good works people are doing until you’re a beneficiary of them.”

And today, Bethany is again fearless… and even jumping on the trampoline again.

“Trampoline,” Dr. Tiva laughed, “that’s kind of scary, but kids will be kids. That’s why we’re here.”

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