'She's got a long road of recovery ahead of her'

Staff ~ The Cape Breton Post
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Aunt of Glace Bay teen who fell over cliff praises firefighters; girl listed in critical-but-stable condition

GLACE BAY— A family member says Glace Bay firefighters saved the life of the young girl who fell over a cliff in Glace Bay on Friday night.

Madonna MacIntyre of Enfield, N.S., said her niece Jessica Walsh, 17, is in critical-but-stable condition at the intensive-care unit at the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre.

"She wouldn't be alive, or would be in worse condition than she is, if it wasn't for Jim Taylor (fire chief of the Glace Bay Fire Department) and his crew going down and rescuing her," said MacIntyre.

"People who put their life on the line for someone they don't even know need recognition."

MacIntyre said her niece has a hairline fracture on her upper right arm, as well as a broken femur, a broken pelvis and fluid in her lungs.

"Her lungs are bruised significantly to the point where she is on a respirator."  

The family hasn't left Jessica's side, she added.

"Jessica doesn't remember the accident and we're thankful for that."

The young teen was walking along the cliff Friday, 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 60 feet below.

MacIntyre was working in the Victoria General site of the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre, nearing the end of a 12-hour backshift, when she received the call Jessica was being airlifted to the Halifax Infirmary site.

MacIntyre rushed to the Halifax Infirmary and was there when Jessica arrived at about 7:35 a.m.

"Jessica was coming in and out of consciousness. She was more worried about her family than anything. Her aunt is now diagnosed with cancer and might need a bone marrow transplant. The first thing she said to the emergency nurse was, 'Will I be able to donate my bone marrow to my aunt?'

"Can you imagine waking up from that trauma and saying that? That goes to show what kind of 17-year-old Jessica is."

She said Jessica was in surgery for five hours Saturday.

"She's graduating from Glace Bay High School this year. I don’t know if she's going to make that. She's got a long road of recovery ahead of her."

MacIntyre said inaccurate information circulating Facebook has been stressful to the family.

“The family is going through enough, we don't need to read or hear gossip. These people obviously don't know Jessica."

MacIntyre said Jessica is a phenomenal teenager.

"She gave her summer to come up here and live with me to help take care of my autistic daughter while I worked 12-hour backshifts. Without any questions asked, she’d get up, she'd make my daughter breakfast, lunch and supper, help her downstairs. Jessica's just special."

She said people are asked not to contact the family at this time.

"Right now the family just needs time. We have to get through the critical part first. We are asking if people can just pray for her."

Taylor said it was good news there was no spinal injuries.

"She has a bit of a battle ahead of her but at least she is alive and doing well, I think, at this point. "

Taylor said the cliffs in Glace Bay are dangerous.

"Especially in the wintertime when you've got the ice and snow. People don't realize, but unless you're from the area and have hung around the place, they are undermined too. They jet out and then come in back towards land."

Taylor said constant training prepares firefighters to render assistance when called upon by the community.  

“The dedication and commitment by all of our firefighters does not go unnoticed and is shown on each and every call we respond to.  Having the support of our community provides the drive we need to continue to provide the services they require.”

Anyone wishing to send a card to Walsh can mail it to: Jessica Walsh, c/o the Halifax Infirmary at the QE11 Hospital, Halifax, N.S., B3H 3A7.


Organizations: Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre, Halifax Infirmary, Glace Bay Fire Department Glace Bay High School QE11 Hospital

Geographic location: Glace Bay, Enfield

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