Toddler walks for first time after shattering spine in horror crash

Heartwarming clip captures ‘miracle’ toddler defying doctors to WALK for first time after shattering her neck in horror car crash

  • Alice Polinska, one, was in a horrific car crash in Merthyr Tydfil in December
  • Doctors feared she would never walk again after breaking her neck in the crash 
  • But three months later, Alice defied their expectations by taking her first steps

This is the moment a one-year-old girl miraculously took her first steps after being in terrifying car crash that nearly left her paralysed.

Alice Polinska was in the back of her mother’s car when a driver suspected of drug-use ploughed into them head-on at a combined impact of 110mph in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales, in December. 

Her injured mother Magda watched on as Alice and her sister Maya, three, were rushed to hospital in ambulances after she got them out of the car wreck.

Alice was whisked to A&E at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff where doctors found her neck was broken and feared she would die.

Her spine was damaged, stopping the left side of her body from moving and medics feared the paralysis could be permanent even if she did survive.

Doctors told Ms Polinska the chance of a child her age surviving the injuries was so low there were very few halo tractions — a device they used to elongate her spine — available in her size. 

They put her into a coma before fitting a tracheostomy on December 16 because she was still unable to breath. 

But nearly three months later, after hours of physiotherapy and mobility training, Alice defied doctors expectations by taking her first steps on March 3.

Alice Polinska, one, miraculously takes her first steps after being in terrifying car crash that nearly left her paralysed in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales

Alice was given a tracheostomy and doctors explained the chance of a child her age surviving the injuries was so low they struggled to find a halo traction — a device to elongate the spine (pictured) — small enough for her

Ms Polinska said: ‘It’s been the worst three months of our family’s life, particularly as we’ve had to spend so much time apart at a time when all we want to do is be together.

‘But there have been so many miracles too. We’ve heard so many times how lucky we all were to be alive after an accident like that and even more so that Alice survived such a terrible spinal injury.’

When Alice was admitted to hospital, doctors fond she had broken her spine between the first and second vertebrae in her neck and bruising around her spinal chord.

After recovering from her own injuries — a broken wrist and face and hip bruises — in A&E the following morning, Ms Polinska went to the Paediatric Critical Care Unit where Alice was being treated.

She was told her daughter may never walk again because of the spinal injury that had caused damage to the left side of her body.

Her injured mother Magda (left) watched on as Alice and her sister Maya (pictured together, right), three, were rushed to hospital in ambulances after she got them out of the car wreck

Alice of Cwmbran, South Wales, was moved to Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospital in Cardiff for rehabilitation

What are spinal injuries and how likely are they to cause paralysis? 

Spinal injuries are any damage that occurs to the spine from the neck down.

They can cause paralysis if they result in damage to the spinal cord, which controls the body’s motor functions.

Depending on the location of the injury, they can cause people to use the loss of their legs (paraplegia) or arms and legs (quadroplegia).

The higher up you damage the spinal cord, the more movement and sensation will be affected — with neck injuries more likely to result in quadroplegia. 

Car accidents are one of the main causes of paralysis but spinal cord injuries caused by crashes are still extremely rare. 

Around 2,500 people have spinal cord injuries in the UK every year, while there were 119,850 car accident injuries in 2019.

Alice couldn’t breath on her own and doctors gave her a tracheostomy before explaining she would need dangerous surgery to put rods into her back. 

Ms Polinska said: ‘They had told my husband and I that the operation was extremely risky but we knew that if Alice was to have any hope at all of a normal life, this was the only option.

‘The list the surgeon had written of the awful things that could happen was so long that it almost went off the page. 

‘By signing that piece of paper we were giving our consent to an operation that our daughter might never come back from. It is by far the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life.’

The surgery was a success and Alice was moved to Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospital in Cardiff for rehabilitation.

Ms Polinska said: ‘To have this wonderful hospital with so many specialisms to care for Alice feels like a gift.

‘I was so terrified that Alice would be paralysed when this first happened, but the physio team came every day, building both my confidence and Alice’s until she was able to sit and even stand again.

‘Now you can’t even tell the difference between her right side and her left. We’re so thankful to them all for what they have done.’

Her other daughter Maya suffered bruising and a broken arm but was otherwise fine after the crash, with both girls sat in the back of the car. 

A 39-year-old man from Monmouthshire was arrested on suspicion of causing serious injury by dangerous driving, driving a vehicle whilst unfit through drugs and possession of a class C controlled drug. 

He has since been released under investigation.

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