When the vehicle he was riding in skidded out of control on April 29, 4-year-old Killian Gonzalez sustained one of the most serious neck injuries possible. The strong ligaments connecting his skull to his spinal column stretched and snapped to the point that his head was only holding onto his body by the biological equivalent of a thread. Though any injury to the brain, spine, or neck is scary, this was an especially dire case: 70 percent of those who suffer internal decapitation die immediately. That’s why his recovery is being called a “miracle” by Idaho TV station KBOI, and why the intervention by a couple who witnessed the car crash was absolutely imperative.

“We could hear a kid screaming,” Leah Woodward told KBOI of the day. She and her husband watched two vehicles collide head on and the pair immediately stopped and ran from their car to the crash site, intent on helping the survivors.

“My husband smashed out the back window,” Woodward wrote about the incident on Facebook, “the little boy was laying on his side in the back seat screaming but not moving.”

Her husband, a police officer with first-responder training, helped Woodward stabilize the boy’s neck. Woodward recalled pinkish fluid surrounding the child’s head, which she later learned was spinal fluid leaking from a wound. The couple swaddled the boy in a blanket to keep the severity of his injury from his mother, who had been driving and was almost in shock from her own injuries.

“I told her he was fine,” Woodward wrote of her interaction with Brandy Gonzalez. “He clearly wasn’t.”

While her husband tried to tend to Gonzalez, who had suffered broken bones in both legs and her left arm, Woodward held the boy’s head straight for over half an hour before paramedics survived. This move likely saved his life, but Woodward was worried the entire time.

“I’m trying to stay calm, but inside I’m panicking,” she said in the KBOI interview. “I’m thinking, ‘I don’t know what I’m doing,’ and it was the worst feeling I’ve ever had to not know how to help.”

The paramedics flew Killian to a hospital and diagnosed him with a ruptured spleen, broken arm, and multiple broken ribs in addition to his neck injury. But it was the clinical decapitation that was most worrisome. Those who survive the often-fatal injury, also called atlanto-occipital dislocation, frequently suffer severe aftereffects including paralysis and neurological impairment.

Killian, despite the statistics, is expected to make a full recovery and is already eating and walking by himself.

Gonzalez told the TV station that her son is doing incredibly well.

“He’s shocked everyone there,” she said. “They keep telling me he’s the talk of the hospital.”

As for Woodward, she’s happy she was able to help a mother stay with her child.

“I’m just glad to have been chosen by God to help them,” she wrote on Facebook, adding that a GoFundMe account has been set up to help the family with their medical bills. “My heart is full and my faith restored because of this accident.”