‘She was internally decapitated.’: Parent shares PSA for forward-facing car seats

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Grandmother Tanya Bender shared an urgent warning on Facebook about turning a child’s car seat around to be forward-facing too early. Her granddaughter, Aniyah, was in a car accident when she was 2 years old while forward-facing, and was “internally decapitated at her C1,” leaving her “partially paralyzed” still at the age of 4.

“In most states the minimum requirement to forward-face is 2 years old,” Bender wrote in the group, Keeping Littles Safe In Carseats. “Aniyah was 2 years old when she was in a car accident forward-facing. Her seat was correctly installed in the car seat according to the car seat requirements and the law now.”

However, Bender added, “If she had been rear-facing, she would have not suffered any injury at all.”

Toddler in head brace in hospital bed after being internally decepitated
Tanya Bender

Bender told Love What Matters more details about the horrific car accident that left her granddaughter with these lifelong injuries in hopes of alerting other parents to this potentially deadly situation.

“Aniyah turned 2 on February 28th and the accident happened on May 22nd,” she recalled. “She was waiting happily for her mom to pick her up for the day, and we put the car seat in the car forward-facing and strapped her in. They left the house and about 5 miles down the road, they got into a car accident that resulted in the car hitting a brick pillar that held up signs for a business, and the car flipped upside down.

Car upside down in the street that caused toddler to be internally decapitated
Tanya Bender

Due to the force, Aniyah was internally decapitated at her C1 completely. She had several breaks between C1 and C7 and also suffered a complete tear at her C5 of her nerve root that controls her arm.

Toddler in head brace after car crash that left her internally decapitated
Tanya Bender

She was life-flighted to Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland, Oregon, after a long 12 hours at the local hospital. She underwent an 8-hour surgery to fuse her entire neck and put a halo on.

Toddler who was internally decapitated wears halo in hospital bed and looks to the side
Tanya Bender

We spent the next two weeks there at the hospital. When we arrived at home, we had to teach her how to sit up again, walk again, and how to use her hand and lower arm again.

Toddler who was internally decapitated sits on floor at home coloring wearing a halo while dad watches
Tanya Bender
Toddler who was internally decapitated smiling in wheel chair wearing a halo brace
Tanya Bender
Toddler who was internally decapitated sits in wheel chair wearing a halo next to dad sitting in recliner
Tanya Bender
Toddler who was internally decapitated wears halo brace while sitting on the couch coloring
Tanya Bender
Toddler who was internally decapitated lays in red wagon with blankets wearing a halo with doll in her lap
Tanya Bender

It has been two years in May of this year and she is finally able — with constant occupational therapy — to use the lower part of her arm but will never be able to use it fully. Due to her full neck fusion she will never be able to jump on trampolines, ride horses, do cheerleading, sports that require her to be physical or even tumbling. It is too dangerous for re-injury to her neck. The fusion Aniyah had is very rare to survive from, according to her doctors at Doernbechers.

Toddler who was internally decapitated smiles while sitting on steps
Tanya Bender

Bender told Love What Matters she wishes she could just “move forward” with her life, but she wants “so badly to save others from this tragedy.”

“I want people to understand that although the laws may say you can forward-face your child at 23-pounds or 2 years old in some states, the best thing is to always rear-face until at least 40-pounds or even 50-pounds, if you can do so. Aniyah would have not had any injuries at all if she had been rear-facing in the accident. She is learning to function very well with her disabilities and is thriving now.”

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Tanya Bender of Central Point, Oregon. Submit your story here, and be sure to subscribe to our best love stories here.

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