Decapitated infant has head reattached in miracle surgery

Anything involving the word “decapitation” is unlikely to end well. Throw in the word “toddler” and things get even more dispiriting. Yet, astonishingly, this is something of a feel-good story.

Decapitated infant has head reattached in miracle surgery

16-month-old Jaxon Taylor was involved in a car crash with his mother and sister when their car collided head-on with another vehicle at 70mph. While an airbag saved the mother, and the sister – aged nine – suffered abdominal injuries, Jaxon came out with an internal decapitation: his head and neck were pulled apart from the spinal column.

After being airlifted to Brisbane and put under the care of spinal surgeon Dr Geoff Askin, doctors painstakingly reattached the vertebrae using a tiny piece of wire, and some of Jaxon’s rib to graft it back together. The operation took six hours and, two weeks later, Jaxon is walking and laughing again.jaxon_taylor

“A lot of children wouldn’t survive that injury in the first place, and if they did and were resuscitated, then they may never move or breath again,” Dr Askin told 7 News. Needless to say, Jaxon is extremely lucky – it’s pretty unusual to make a full recovery, which he is set to do in eight weeks after the “Halo” brace comes off.

Does this mean a human head transplant is possible?

A hugely uplifting story, if you disregard the car crash that put his life in danger in the first place, but is this also good news for the upcoming human head transplant?

No, it’s completely irrelevant.

I go into a lot more detail in the link below, but, in short, the medical community is massively sceptical about the proposed methods of the first head transplant, and it’s a whole different kettle of fish. While the operation here involved grafting existing spinal tissue, a head transplant would involve connecting two unrelated spinal cords – something that hasn’t even successfully been accomplished on animals. As Dr Jerry Silver, who witnessed attempted monkey head transplants in the 1970s, said: “To sever a head and even contemplate the possibility of gluing axons back properly across the lesion to their neighbours is pure and utter fantasy in my opinion.”

Take nothing away from Dr Askin’s amazing feat of surgery, or the admirable tenacity of young Jaxon, but this certainly shouldn’t be used as extra evidence that the human head transplant will be anything other than a horrifying cautionary tale to spook younger doctors.

You can read more about the human head transplant here.

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