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    The success of doctors from Gdansk. They rescued a three-year-old whose head had detached from her spine

    This has been the only such case in Poland so far. Specialists from the Nicolaus Copernicus Hospital in Gdansk have saved three-year-old Martynka, who was seriously injured in a car accident – writes The baby’s head was severed from the spine. The girl’s father, a 32-year-old police officer, died in the accident. Her 57-year-old grandfather was also seriously injured.

    A tragic accident occurred on July 6 in Redzikowo near Słupsk. Preliminary findings indicated that the 57-year-old driver of a passenger Volkswagen lost control of the vehicle, drifted into the opposite lane, and then struck a tree.  A 32-year-old passenger, a policeman from Oleśnica, was killed.  The 57-year-old driver and the child were taken to hospital in Slupsk. Three-year-old Martynka was the most severely injured.


    Doctors from Slupsk, where the girl was taken, knew that the child had to be taken to a specialist centre as soon as possible. The Trauma Centre for Children at the Nicolaus Copernicus Hospital in Gdansk, after consultation with neurosurgeons, agreed to accept them for treatment.


    It’s a miracle the baby survived it at all.  She was saved by the seatbelts she was fastened to the car seat with,” explains Wojciech Wasilewski, MD, in an interview with


    The mechanism of injury was as follows: the seatbelts were holding well, but the girl was asleep, her head was inert. The sudden impact was so strong that it ripped her head out in a functional sense.  The skin and muscles held up, but the ligaments and bones were torn. On imaging studies, it was clear that the distance between the head and the rest of the body had increased by 2 cm.  There was a 1 cm gap between the skull and spine and a second centimetre between the first and second vertebrae. I have been a neurosurgeon for over 30 years and have operated on patients with injuries in this area many times. However, none of them got their heads blown off,” says Dr Wasilewski.


    As he adds, from the reports of the rescuers who provided first aid to the accident victims, it was known that the child was moving its arms and legs. This gave hope that the spinal cord was not severed.  Rarely are vital functions preserved after such a severe injury. So there was a lot to fight for,” emphasises Dr Wasilewski.


    Initially, the girl remained in a pharmacological coma. The operation was performed on July 12, on Martina’s third birthday. It lasted 6 hours – although it was assumed that it would even take a whole day.


    Neurosurgeons from Gdansk used their technique of inserting transepiphyseal screws in the spine, which was based on their experience.  They are world pioneers in this type of operation.


    Three weeks after the operation, Martyna’s condition is improving. My daughter is getting stronger, she eats nicely, she doesn’t have a tube anymore,” says the mother of the three-year-old.  You can see the improvement every day.  She started exercising, she was even sitting on my lap by now. Soon we will go to a hospital in Wrocław for further rehabilitation,” he adds.


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