Brenda Smothers was babysitting her 5-year-old grandson Daniel, and the child was jumping up and down on the bed.
“I told him to get off the bed … Mimi did not feel well,” she remembered.
He was holding a pencil and she told him to hand it to her. As he was stopping he bounced toward her and she reached for him.
“I don’t know if he jumped but I lost my balance,” she said. “I was standing there nonchalant and next thing I knew he was on me and fell (to the ground).”
Brenda remembers she could not move. There were no broken bones from the fall on that day of Oct. 19, but Brenda wound up at Spring Lake Rehabilitation Center for two weeks.
The shock from the situation and Brenda’s reaction had Daniel crying but only for a few minutes. Brenda asked Daniel to get his father’s cell phone, call his mother and get some help.
“When she fell, he said he I’m sorry, I’m sorry and she started to cry because of the pain,” Daniel’s mother, Cathy Toro, said.
But Brenda said she stopped crying because she didn’t want to scare Daniel and she needed his help.
Daniel retrieved the cell phone from his parents’ room where it was on the table next to the computer. He dialed his mother’s number.
“Mimi’s down, Mimi’s down,” Cathy said Daniel told her adding she heard her mother in the background saying, “Cathy, I’ve fallen.”
At Winter Haven Hospital with her husband, Ed, who has diabetes, Cathy figured she was too far from her home in Alturas off 80 Foot Road to do anything more effective than to call a neighbor who could determine whether 911 would have to contacted.
Cathy asked Daniel to put his Mimi on the phone and she told her what her plan was.
“I told Daniel that Karen from the church is coming,” Brenda said. “Go to the back door and wait for her.”
Cathy called Karen Martin who came over with daughter Cassie, and asked her to check her mother’s condition and keep the situation calm until she got there.
Cathy also called J.D. Dodd, another neighbor, to get over to the house in case furniture had to be moved if EMS had to take Brenda from the house.
“I don’t know what I’d done if I couldn’t get a hold of them,” Cathy recalled of her neighbors. “I’m glad they were home when it was going on.”
Then Cathy took off from the hospital and went as quickly as she could to her home in Alturas.
“It took me about 15 minutes … I was hauling butt,” she said. And, it may have been about 15 minutes, but it felt like a long time.”
Eventually the county EMS responded, in fact, getting there before Cathy got home, she said.
“When they got here I was flat on the floor. I just turned a little bit and I had a pain in my kidneys that hit me like a bombshell,” she said. “I said I didn’t want to move because I didn’t know how much damage I could do to my back.”
EMS personnel told her, she said, that was a good idea because anything could possibly cause paralysis. They put her on a backboard, put on her a neck brace and put straps across her arms, legs, midsection and drove her to Winter Haven Hospital.
“That road (80 Foot Road) is one mile long and it’s a dirt road. It was bump, bump, bump. It felt like a screw was sticking up in my spine because it was that rough.”
Teaching Daniel how to handle the modern technology is only part of the lessons the kindergarten student gets from home, Cathy said, but both she and her mother feel fortunate how he knows how to use a cell phone came in handy.
“Daniel knows when he’s out in public that he’s supposed to stay with mommy or daddy. He knows not to talk to strangers and if someone approaches him to go to the nearest customer service desk or find an adult or police officer,” Cathy said.
But when it comes to electronics and how it’s become part of everyday life, Daniel knows a little. But remaining calm and being helpful is something that really stands out, said Jeanette Rodriguez, Gibbons Elementary school psychologist.
“For a 5-year-old to be calm, that’s a great skill,” she said.
In many homes there is not a primary phone and only cell phones are used, she said, which is the case in the Toro home. Being able to dial the last number or a number for mom’s or dad’s number may mean students don’t have to memorize all seven numbers.
“It’s hard to teach that skill in school,” Rodriguez said, adding computer skills are taught as to students from the start of school.
And for Brenda, at least, it gives her something to be thankful for and to brag about when it comes to her grandson.
“If it weren’t for Daniel I don’t think I’d be in the shape I’m in,” she said. “I would have tried to move.”
While she’s staying at Spring Lake, Daniel has given her something to keep her company because he said he can’t always be there with her.
“They came by after church on Sunday and he got a stuffed hedgehog at church,” Brenda said. “He said this is for you to keep you company.”