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Glace Bay teen recovering well after 73-foot fall off a cliff in March


GLACE BAY — The Glace Bay girl who fell from a 73-ft. cliff in March still doesn't remember the ordeal that led her rescuers to describe her as "a miracle for being alive."

"My last memory is agreeing I'll leave the dance for a little while to go for a walk," said Jessica Walsh, 18.

"The next thing I remember is waking up in a hospital room in Halifax. It was all a blur."

Hearing the details later of what happened came as a shock to her.  Not only was everyone else surprised Walsh survived, she was too.

"For a while I was expecting to wake up and it'd all be a crazy nightmare."

Walsh desperately wants to remember the events of the night and has even visited the cliff where she fell, hoping for a flashback.

In the meantime, she only knows what she has been told by the male friend she was with on the night in question.

"He told me that I was walking and he kept telling me, 'Jessica, there’s a cliff there, there's a cliff.'

“I really hope some day I can remember it myself."

Walsh was walking along the cliff on March 7, shortly before 10 p.m., after she left a teen dance at nearby Ring 73 with a 16-year-old boy when she fell over the icy embankment in between Sixth and Seventh streets to the rocky shore more than 70 feet below.  She was airlifted to the Halifax Infirmary at the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre, where she was admitted in critical, but stable, condition.

Her injuries included a hairline fracture on her upper right arm, as well as a broken femur, a broken pelvis and significant bruising to her lungs.

Walsh was amazed at the cards and letters she received from people she didn't know.

"I got some from out West, Ontario — all around Canada —  and the United States," she said.

"Not just letters but also teddy bears, prayer beads and blankets. It was really nice."

She said her mother and brother never left her side.

"My best friend and her mother also came up and stayed with us. It was great also having my best friend there."

Walsh was transferred to the Glace Bay Hospital on March 21 and continued her recovery at home in May. Although still under her doctor's care, she started Grade 12 at Glace Bay High School in September.

The ordeal has given Walsh a different prospect on her future.

"If not social work, I'm thinking of going into physiotherapy now," she said. "If I was to see people in pain, I'd understand, as I was in their shoes."

Friend Samantha O'Donnell was at the March 7 dance with Walsh, but left early.  She was home when she heard the news.

"I thought it couldn't be true and ran right up. As soon as I saw the flashing lights at the cliff and she wasn't answering my text messages, I knew."

O’Donnell and her mother immediately went to Halifax to be by Walsh's side.

"We stayed a couple weeks until she was transferred to the Glace Bay Hospital. I wasn't leaving her."

Friend Emma McNeil said everyone at Glace Bay High School, where Walsh was in Grade 11 student, was concerned.

"Everyone was always coming up to me asking how Jessica was doing."

Jessica's mother, Debbie Walsh, is still impacted by the whole ordeal.

“Although I wasn’t up at the cliff that night, I can see her laying there,” she said. “The firemen and fire chief said they couldn’t believe she was still alive. I believe God gave the firemen the will to be able to get to her and to be able to save her."

Debbie Walsh also credits the public with playing a big part in her daughter’s recovery, adding her daughter received more than 100 cards.

"All the prayers definitely kept Jessica here with us. She can't remember anything, but wants to (remember) so bad.

"Dr. (Kent) Cadegan said she could (regain the memory from that night) five years from now, you just don't know. He said she could just wake up some night and remember it."

Debbie said her daughter is still having some lung problems and a few stomach problems and is waiting for an appointment with a neurologist.

“She can’t use stairs to any extent, or she has trouble breathing.”

Although she was seriously injured on the right side of her body, X-rays recently revealed a fractured fibula, torn cartilage and issues with the ligaments of her left leg.  

“The doctors are saying they’re pretty sure she needs surgery and then will have to wear a leg brace for a year. Jessica’s a little upset as she’s under the understanding she’ll have to be in a wheelchair for six months and she's graduating this year."

“I’d appreciate it if people just keep saying a prayer so everything keeps going well for her.”

She said the kindness shown to Jessica has been overwhelming, including by Glace Bay dentist Dr. Chris Barrett, who fixed a tooth Jessica broke in the fall for free.

"The amazing kindness and compassion he showed, doing this for a 17-year old girl who was upset over her tooth was a wonderful thing for him to do.”

She said Jessica has a big load on her shoulders this year at school, catching up on credits she missed last year.

"She can still graduate this year, but she has to take some courses over again."

 

smontgomery@cbpost.com

"My last memory is agreeing I'll leave the dance for a little while to go for a walk," said Jessica Walsh, 18.

"The next thing I remember is waking up in a hospital room in Halifax. It was all a blur."

Hearing the details later of what happened came as a shock to her.  Not only was everyone else surprised Walsh survived, she was too.

"For a while I was expecting to wake up and it'd all be a crazy nightmare."

Walsh desperately wants to remember the events of the night and has even visited the cliff where she fell, hoping for a flashback.

In the meantime, she only knows what she has been told by the male friend she was with on the night in question.

"He told me that I was walking and he kept telling me, 'Jessica, there’s a cliff there, there's a cliff.'

“I really hope some day I can remember it myself."

Walsh was walking along the cliff on March 7, shortly before 10 p.m., after she left a teen dance at nearby Ring 73 with a 16-year-old boy when she fell over the icy embankment in between Sixth and Seventh streets to the rocky shore more than 70 feet below.  She was airlifted to the Halifax Infirmary at the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre, where she was admitted in critical, but stable, condition.

Her injuries included a hairline fracture on her upper right arm, as well as a broken femur, a broken pelvis and significant bruising to her lungs.

Walsh was amazed at the cards and letters she received from people she didn't know.

"I got some from out West, Ontario — all around Canada —  and the United States," she said.

"Not just letters but also teddy bears, prayer beads and blankets. It was really nice."

She said her mother and brother never left her side.

"My best friend and her mother also came up and stayed with us. It was great also having my best friend there."

Walsh was transferred to the Glace Bay Hospital on March 21 and continued her recovery at home in May. Although still under her doctor's care, she started Grade 12 at Glace Bay High School in September.

The ordeal has given Walsh a different prospect on her future.

"If not social work, I'm thinking of going into physiotherapy now," she said. "If I was to see people in pain, I'd understand, as I was in their shoes."

Friend Samantha O'Donnell was at the March 7 dance with Walsh, but left early.  She was home when she heard the news.

"I thought it couldn't be true and ran right up. As soon as I saw the flashing lights at the cliff and she wasn't answering my text messages, I knew."

O’Donnell and her mother immediately went to Halifax to be by Walsh's side.

"We stayed a couple weeks until she was transferred to the Glace Bay Hospital. I wasn't leaving her."

Friend Emma McNeil said everyone at Glace Bay High School, where Walsh was in Grade 11 student, was concerned.

"Everyone was always coming up to me asking how Jessica was doing."

Jessica's mother, Debbie Walsh, is still impacted by the whole ordeal.

“Although I wasn’t up at the cliff that night, I can see her laying there,” she said. “The firemen and fire chief said they couldn’t believe she was still alive. I believe God gave the firemen the will to be able to get to her and to be able to save her."

Debbie Walsh also credits the public with playing a big part in her daughter’s recovery, adding her daughter received more than 100 cards.

"All the prayers definitely kept Jessica here with us. She can't remember anything, but wants to (remember) so bad.

"Dr. (Kent) Cadegan said she could (regain the memory from that night) five years from now, you just don't know. He said she could just wake up some night and remember it."

Debbie said her daughter is still having some lung problems and a few stomach problems and is waiting for an appointment with a neurologist.

“She can’t use stairs to any extent, or she has trouble breathing.”

Although she was seriously injured on the right side of her body, X-rays recently revealed a fractured fibula, torn cartilage and issues with the ligaments of her left leg.  

“The doctors are saying they’re pretty sure she needs surgery and then will have to wear a leg brace for a year. Jessica’s a little upset as she’s under the understanding she’ll have to be in a wheelchair for six months and she's graduating this year."

“I’d appreciate it if people just keep saying a prayer so everything keeps going well for her.”

She said the kindness shown to Jessica has been overwhelming, including by Glace Bay dentist Dr. Chris Barrett, who fixed a tooth Jessica broke in the fall for free.

"The amazing kindness and compassion he showed, doing this for a 17-year old girl who was upset over her tooth was a wonderful thing for him to do.”

She said Jessica has a big load on her shoulders this year at school, catching up on credits she missed last year.

"She can still graduate this year, but she has to take some courses over again."

 

smontgomery@cbpost.com

Jessica Walsh, centre, 18, of Glace Bay, who miraculously survived a fall from 73-ft. cliff in Glace Bay in March, walks from Glace Bay High School with friends Emma McNeil, left,, and Samantha O'Donnell. Walsh said she doesn't have any memory of the events that led up to her fall but hopes her memory of that night will come back some day.

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