Leah Woodward held Killian Gonzalez's neck in place for over a half-hour before emergency help arrived

By Alex Heigl
June 07, 2016 03:00 PM

“We could hear a kid screaming, a little baby screaming,” Leah Woodward recalled.

Leah and her husband, Joel Woodward, had just witnessed a head-on collision between two cars in Idaho, and rushed to the site of the crash. Fortunately, Joel is a police officer with first-responder training and the pair were able to break the rear window of the car they heard the screams coming from with a trailer hitch.

They discovered a horrific site: Four-year-old Killian Gonzalez still strapped in his booster seat, surrounded by a strange pinkish liquid. Woodward would later find out it was spinal fluid.

While her husband comforted Brandy Gonzalez, the boy’s mother, Woodward held Killian’s neck as rigidly still as possible for over a half-hour while waiting for paramedics to arrive, according to Idaho’s KBOI.

At the hospital, they discovered the true extent of the Brandy and Killian’s injuries: Gonzalez fractured bones in both legs and her left arm, and Killian suffered a ruptured spleen, multiple broken ribs. Both his arms were broken and most alarmingly, he experienced a rare trauma to his neck described clinically as an “internal decapitation,” in which the ligaments connecting the skull and the spine are severed.

The injury is frequently fatal. A 2010 report of 69 cases involving the injury showed that 47 people died instantly, 15 succumbed to their injuries at the hospital. Only seven of the 69 lived.

Woodward’s ordeal as a first responder has been credited as the reason for Killian’s miraculous survival. Experts stress that it’s crucial to keep an individual’s neck isolated when a spinal injury is suspected. Killian did not undergo surgery for the injury and is “doing amazing,” according to his mother.

“He’s shocked everyone there. They keep telling me he s the talk of the hospital,” she told KTLA 5 News. “[Woodward] saved my baby. She gave him back,” Gonzalez continued. A GoFundMe page has been set up to defray the cost of medical expenses for the family.