HAYDEN, Ala. (WIAT) — Diane Eubank feels as though she has been given a second chance at life after a horrific accident that happened last Christmas Eve.
“I was internally decapitated all the way through,” Eubank said as she drew a line across her neck with her finger. “My ear was ripped off, my arms tore back, I have some scars on my chest, and my jaw has been broken.”
Eubank was riding around her family’s property in Blount County on an ATV. It’s something she did all the time.
Jonas, a German exchange student who was staying with her family at the time, was on the back. The details of what followed are still patchy for Eubank.
She doesn’t remember some things, even the week before the accident, but somehow, Eubank remembers the seconds before she and Jonas plowed into a barbed-wire fence. She also remembers being terrified that Jonas had been hurt or even killed.
“You know, I think when I really opened up my life (to) someone else’s, God gave me that second chance,” she said. “He sent me to UAB.”
“So in her case, it was direct trauma to the neck,” explained Dr. Steven Theiss, chair of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine. “So she went into the barbed wire fence and the force of the fence, it lifted her head off her neck.”
Doctors said that all but about 30 percent of internal decapitations are fatal. However, Eubank’s spinal cord was miraculously not damaged.
“As a friend of mine likes to say, a spine surgeon, it’s essentially like attaching a bowling ball and holding it with a string,” Theiss said.
Eubank was in surgery at UAB for over 10 hours, seeing team after team of surgeons. Theiss said her survival was largely due to the heroic efforts in the field.
Eubank pointed to a state trooper that just happened to be near her home at the time of the accident who called for a helicopter to be dispatched before first responders arrived. Jonas’ mother, a yoga instructor trained in first aid, helped to stabilize Eubank as well.
Eubank said she was heavily medicated for at least the first week after the accident, where she remembers floating in and out of consciousness.
Her doctors would often ask her to wiggle her toes, but she didn’t understand why at the time. In the meantime, doctors had warned Eubank’s family that it was possible that she would be a quadriplegic.
The toe movement was a wonderful sign that she could walk again one day.
While she was in the hospital, Eubank was unaware of what had happened to Jonas. She was thrilled and relieved to learn he was not injured.
Months later, and Eubank is learning to walk again. While she still has pain and some limited motion, she is grateful.
“I would say, God do with me what you will,” she said, “and I would sit you know, I’d be at work or something and I never really impacted anybody. Now God has given me a second chance at life. I can impact somebody. Somebody.”
While Eubank doesn’t remember what led up to her accident, she is encouraging people who ride ATVs to drive slowly and think about their actions.