Cape Breton girl who fell from cliff awake, talking in Halifax hospital

Sharon Montgomery-Dupe
Published on March 18, 2014


The mother of a young girl who fell from a 60-foot cliff says the public played a huge part in her daughter's recovery.

"If it wasn't for everybody's prayers, I don't think she'd be here," said Debbie Walsh.

"I definitely believe in the higher power, and I believe God and the guardian angels were watching over her."

Jessica Walsh, 17, is recovering in the intensive-care unit at Halifax Infirmary, located at the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre.

Walsh said that after nine days of being sedated, her daughter woke up Sunday morning.

"They came out and said, 'We took the respirator off her early, she woke up and is asking for you.'

"Her voice was very low and hard to understand, but she could speak somewhat. I think she was trying to tell me she was sorry."

Walsh said her daughter doesn't remember what happened and thinks she was in a car accident.

"I told her she had a fall. The doctors have told me her memory may come back and it might never come back — it will just take time to see."

Sunday evening Jessica was taken off oxygen and Monday afternoon was moved into a smaller part of the intensive-care unit.

"She's not completely out of the woods and has a lot of injuries she's going to have to deal with."

Jessica's injuries include a hairline fracture on her upper right arm, as well as a broken femur, a broken pelvis and her lungs were bruised significantly.

Walsh said there were tense moments during Jessica's recovery.

"The worst thing was some fat from the femur went up to her brain and caused her to have mini-strokes. That really frightened us."

Walsh said her daughter is expected to be in hospital for at least three to four months, then will be sent to a rehabilitation centre in Cape Breton.

Jessica was walking along the cliff 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 60 feet below.

Walsh was at home watching TV waiting for the dance to end when her sister-in-law called her after her own daughter came home saying someone fell over the cliff and word was that it was Jessica. Walsh said she thought the worse.

"I've lived there all my life, I know those cliffs."

Walsh said her husband Phonse called 911.

"As we were talking to them, the police officer came to our door. At that time they were still trying to get Jessica up from the area where she had fallen."

Walsh said they then received news the Glace Bay Fire Department had rescued Jessica.

"They said she was being transported to the regional hospital and she was talking. So then, of course, I was somewhat relieved but still scared."

"Jessica was more concerned about her phone, a family member who is ill, and her best friend."

Walsh said the support since has been amazing and Jessica even received a teddy bear from a Sydney woman.

"People have sent donations, I'm totally amazed," she said, crying softly.

"There's a woman here in the hospital, we cannot walk by her desk where she's not trying to give us money, cards, candy, magazines — it’s unreal. "

She said the family is grateful to everyone from firefighters who rescued Jessica, to the actions of he young boy Jessica was with at the time of the accident.

"If he hadn't of acted so quickly, she might not be here — every second counts," Walsh said.

"Then without all the prayers and support from everyone I don't think we would have been able to get through this. We are so grateful to everyone."

Jessica's brother Phonse, 33, said it was hard to find words to described their gratitude.

"We know she is loved by her family and her friends, but to the extent we have seen from the people of Cape Breton, Halifax and the hospital — and the people who have come around — there are no words to describe how appreciative we are for the prayers, thoughts and well wishes," he said.

"I consider myself someone with a pretty good grasp of the English language but I have nothing, there's nothing I can say. I'm absolutely beside myself with appreciation. We as a family are eternally grateful. We have our sister here, that's all that matters to me."