Teen Left With Internal Decapitation after Hit and Run Saved by Doctors

A 17-year-old girl left with a rare and deadly injury after a hit and run has been saved by medical staff. The San Diego County teenager can now move and is communicating with her doctors.

Lilliana Demara's recovery from "internal decapitation," more formally known as atlantooccipital dislocation, suffered during a car crash on the morning of September 3, was described by Palomar Hospital doctor John Steele as "a miracle."

Dr. Steele told News19 the teenager will need more surgeries, but he and his team are optimistic. Steele said: "It happens rarely that we're fortunate enough to get such a good outcome. This is usually a devastating injury. I've seen three patients thrive after it. Generally speaking, they don't normally make it to the hospital.

"She can communicate with us and she can move everything and that's just outstanding. Lilliana has gone through a lot and I have great expectations for her. I'm so happy for her family to get this miracle because that's what it is."

The hit and run occurred on South Las Posas Road and Miranda Drive, San Marcos, at 2:45 am local time when a car carrying Demara and her friends was broadsided by an SUV. The SUV struck the car at the rear passenger side, with Demara sat on the backseat.

The driver of the vehicle, a silver Chevy sedan, abandoned it at the side of the road and fled, according to San Diego County Sheriff's Office. The man has still not been found and the Sherriff's Office is appealing for any witnesses to the incident to come forward.

Demara and her friends were pulled from the white Acura they were traveling in as the SUV that struck it burst into flames. Demara and an unnamed minor were then taken to Palomar Hospital

Dr. Steele described to News19 the list of injuries suffered by Demara in the car crash: "Breaking a bunch of her ribs, breaking her collar bones, breaking her neck, injuring her spleen, plus the atlantooccipital dislocation which is the internal decapitation.

"That's where you break the neck away from the head. The head is basically holding on by muscles, skin."

Despite improvements in the treatment of internal decapitation, doctors still recognize that a person suffering from such an injury is at a high risk of permanent neurological damage or death.

Even though it accounts for just 1 percent of cervical spine injuries seen by doctors, internal decapitation is still the leading cervical spine injury that causes death in motor vehicle accidents.

A GoFundMe established for Demara in the wake of her accident has already achieved its goal of $10,000.

The Sheriff's Department has urged anyone with information regarding the hit and run to call their non-emergency line at (858) 565-5200. The department added that callers can remain anonymous and could be eligible for up to a $1,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest.

Newsweek has contacted the San Diego County Sheriff's Office for comment.

Spine Human
A stock 3D images showing a spinal column and cervical vertebrate. A San Diego teenager is recovering from an internal decapitation suffered in a hit and run car crash. magicmine/Getty