After catching her stepdaughter, who jumped from a window to escape a house fire, a woman broke her back. As their Lynchburg, Virginia, home went up in flames last week, Crystal Dawson told her 11-year-old stepdaughter, Brianna, “You have to jump.”
Dawson, 30, caught Brianna; however, the stepmom shattered her T5 vertebrae, leaving her hospitalized and temporarily paralyzed, and unable to walk.
Doctors believe Dawson will walk again but might need surgery. However, nothing heavier than a glass of milk can be lifted by Dawson, including her 6-month-old baby.
“Honestly, completely crushed,” Dawson told FOX Television Stations from UVA hospital. “To know that’s all going to have to change, that was very hard.”
On Friday morning, the incident happened when Dawson wanted to prepare a bottle for her infant.
“I couldn’t even make it, not even three steps into my living room before I was hit in the face with flames,” she continued.
The family was warned to leave the house by Dawson. She, her husband, and their infant got out of the home, but Brianna and her 9-year-old brother were left upstairs, trapped in their bedrooms.
“I’m standing at the front door of my house, screaming, ’Guys, get to a window. Guys, the house is one fire, get to a window,’” she explained.
The children managed to climb through a window and step onto a piece of a lower-level roof.
Dawson caught the 9-year-old stepson, who jumped first. However, even as the wood beneath her began to give way, the stepdaughter hesitated before jumping.
“She was very scared,” Dawson continued.
The little girl eventually leaped from the burning house. “I caught her with everything I had in my chest,” Dawson said.
She fell to the ground holding the child and heard a pop.
The roof collapsed.
The wife and children were moved across the street by the husband. When the paramedics arrived, Dawson could not get on the stretcher without assistance. She then knew there was a problem.
While at the hospital, Dawson learned her prognosis.
Dawson said she did not regret her actions the morning of the fire.
“I wouldn’t change a thing. My daughter is safe, and that’s all that I was worried about,” she added.
“I’ve never looked at them as my step kids,” she continued. “I’ve always looked at them as my kids.”
Their biological mother is now housing the older kids. Other relatives have taken in Dawson, her husband, and their infant. The house was a total loss.