A year after a 50 foot fall into a Mt Nemo crevasse survivor Anita Ceh returns to thank the firefighters.

·4 min read

One year ago Anita Ceh had a life-changing hike at Mount Nemo.

Anita and her friend, Jennifer, met in the parking lot last October to walk a Mount Nemo trail. Anita has always been active but doesn’t consider herself much of a hiker, favouring more leisurely walks – what followed was anything but. Mount Nemo’s cliffside trail looms large on the escarpment skyline and looks out over rural parts of the city adorned with autumn foliage of golds and reds. Anita doesn’t remember how long they walked before the fall.

Anita jumped across a small gap in the trail and she immediately knew something was wrong. The earth gave way and Anita lost her footing, she grabbed hold of a tree on the other side of the clearing but too much ground had given way, soil and stone gobbled up by the jagged mouth of a deep crevasse. Her grip couldn’t hold. The tree slipped out of her grasp and Anita’s friend tells her she grabbed at the edge of the ground, but the cliff face crumbled too.

After losing purchase on the cliff face Anita curled into the fetal position to protect her head and neck. She doesn’t remember the fall.

Anita fell fifty feet into the gaping crevasse. She remembers coming to, here and there, as emergency responders fastened ropes to a stretcher for a vertical elevation because the crevasse was too narrow for any other kind of evacuation. Although Anita’s recollection of her time caught in the crevasse is spotty, Jennifer Massel , who found a passerby to call 911, tells her they communicated the whole time. Jennifer never thought Anita was going to die, Anita says the firefighters thought differently.

“They thought they’d be bringing a body up,” said Anita. “And so I don’t know how I survived, I guess determination, divine intervention. I’m not a religious person, but I have to believe that there is somebody watching over me.”

Anita spent seven weeks in the hospital, much of it she described as lost time in a brain fog. Anita worked as an x-ray technician, she remembered seeing the terrible x-rays of badly injured patients during her career and never imagined she’d be one of them. The brain fog was mostly lifted by the last two weeks of her hospital stay and Anita, grateful to have survived, grew restless and frustrated with her hospital stay, eager to return to her life.

Now she has.

“Amazingly, I’m feeling really good,” said Anita.

Following her long hospital stay, Anita walked around with a cane for two weeks due to a fracture in her spine. She attributes ditching the cane to her stubbornness and is back to being active now. She left the crevasse with a “fair bit of hardware” in her shoulder and wrist. Anita has started riding her bike again, one of her favourite ways to stay active, but she’s more cautious than before.

Despite how foggy the incident at Mount Nemo has become it weighs heavy on Anita’s mind.

“I kind of was concerned about going back to Mount Nemo because of post-traumatic stress, which I know I’m suffering from now. But I want to go back and see, and have a look at the crevasse.”

One year after the event Anita had the opportunity to meet the firefighters who saved her life. Anita said she got the idea to meet the first responders again from a friend who told her they’re always appreciative of the gratitude. Anita was emotional speaking about the firefighter’s heroism.

“I have such respect for them, I always have, but when you actually have to be saved from such a dangerous situation you realize they risk their lives to save our lives.”

Acting Platoon Chief Jason Laporte mentioned it is a rare opportunity to reconnect with someone they helped during an emergency but says when it happens it’s “one of the most rewarding parts of the job.”

The Burlington Fire Department is using a mobile application called what3words to help emergency responders find callers in remote areas without a known or specific address. Residents are encouraged to download the free app to mobile devices so public safety telecommunicators can quickly identify your location, down to a 3-meter square area, during an emergency.

When the passerby called 9-1-1 for Anita they were unsure how to describe the location, but eventually were able to coordinate with first responders. Burlington Fire Chief Karen Roche pointed out what3words will help responders and citizens in emergency situations.

“We’re thankful the 9-1-1 caller was able to help us locate her. Every second we spend trying to search for a caller could mean their chances of a positive outcome is reduced. The faster we can get to the person, the better the outcome. Downloading the what3words application on your mobile device helps us help you,” said Roche.

Ryan O'Dowd, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Burlington Gazette

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