By Liz Bonis
CINCINNATI, Ohio (WKRC/CNN) - An Ohio woman is lucky to be alive after a car crash caused internal decapitation.
Surgeons at the University of Cincinnati stabilized her spine and prevented paralysis.
This past fall Kimberly Flanigan was riding in a car driven by her cousin when they slid on black ice.
Paramedics got her to the hospital, and Dr. Ferhan Asghar got an immediate image of her spine.
"And that showed that she had in internal decapitation injury, where there is a severe injury to the ligaments that hold your head on your spine," he said.
It was late at night by the time she came in, and luckily she got to a team of surgeons who took one look at her and knew exactly what to do to stabilize her injuries. In the end, that and a seatbelt may have made all the difference in saving her life.
"When she came in, we were able to put her head back where it belongs in the operating room, and then fix everything back in place with screws and rods to keep everything from shifting again," said Dr. Asghar.
In addition to the decapitation injury, she broke her collarbone, right arm, and rib.
In her long journey back, she's become an advocate for seatbelt use.
"Oh, yeah, I had my seatbelt on," she said.
As for prayer, "I am blessed, I thank Him, I thank the Lord, and I don't have anything to not smile about. I am grateful, and I don't have nothing not to smile about but I'm grateful, I am happy. It couldn't get any better than this," she said.
And for Dr. Asghar's team they know they likely prevented paralysis.