Actually, if all you broke were the bones of the neck- it would and is survivable. If on the otherhand, you injure the spinal cord inside there, then you have problems. There's also the matter of where the injury occurs. A spinal cord injury that occurs at C1, C2 or C3- those are the first three cervical vertebrae- will interfere with breathing and heart rate because the nerve which controls the diaphram is paralyzed. That means you can't breathe on your own. Anything that stops your breathing will of course, very quickly stop the heart from beating. Although you are thinking that the heart beats independantly of the brain is essentially correct, the rate is still controlled by the brain, and of course the breathing is. People with a severe injury die because they stop breathing, and then the heart stops. Since at the time of the injury you will only have around 5 minutes to determine the person has that sort of injury, unless somebody nearby detects it quickly and begins artificial respiration, the person often dies. People like Christopher Reeves survive because somebody recognizes the problem quickly enough to take the appropriate action. The spinal cord injury isn't actually instantly fatal, although it may as well be if you aren't lucky to be in the right place at at the right time. Fortunately, most spinal injuries don't involve the uppermost portions of the spinal cord. Beginning with C-4, the loss of motion will be from the shoulders down, but the person will still breathe without assistance. And as long as the spinal cord itself is not injured, and as long as the injury is to the vertebrae only, you can not only live, but you will not necessarily be paralized. I happen to be one of the lucky few who actually suffered an incomplete fracture of the C-3 vertebrae. My spinal cord was not injured, at least not anything major. I spent several months in a halo, several more in physical therapy, and am alive and kicking today. I was 17 when it happened, and I am - well- a fair amount older now. I went to university where I earned two degrees, one in nursing. Later I married and have four children. So a "broken neck" doesn't mean instant death, while an injured spinal cord certainly can.
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