Teacher suffers frightening fall | VailDaily.com

Teacher suffers frightening fall

Cliff Thompson

He used a hydraulic cherry picker lift to reach one of those, a disco ball light, hung from the gym ceiling 30 feet up.

But something went terribly wrong and the lift toppled over, leaving Dodge hanging from a roof rafter with no way to get down.

Dodge, who is recovering at the Vail Valley Medical Center from surgery to secure a broken pelvis, didn’t lose his composure.

“I’m okay,” he told Eagle Valley Middle School Principal Jerry Santoro. “The man did not panic.”

The only questions he had was how long he could hold on, and how he would land.

Beneath him, veteran teacher Casey Stanish (who could not be reached for comments on this story) scrambled to pile up gymnasium mats beneath Dodge. She managed to get four or five of doubled-up foam mats under him. At the last instant, she unfolded one of them in case he missed the main pile. It was a fortunate move.

After hanging from the beam for what Dodge estimates was 5 or 6 minutes, he decided to drop. But even this was a calculated move.

“He didn’t want to fall on his back and risk spinal injury,” said Santoro, “He didn’t want to land on his legs and risk fracturing them. He decided to land on his hip. He had to have some composure of mind to do that.”

And he did, but he missed the pile of mats, landing on the single mat Stanish had at the last moment unfolded. It didn’t knock him out, and he rolled on to all fours, Santoro said, before experiencing pain in his right hip.

Dodge fractured his pelvis and had surgery Saturday morning to stabilize the bone. He was actually up on crutches briefly and reported experiencing little or no pain when he stood.

His hospital room has been filled with teachers and parents and other well-wishers.

“I wouldn’t be in this good of shape if it wasn’t for Casey,” he said from his hospital bed Saturday afternoon, still a little woozy from the surgery.

But Dodge did another selfless thing in the midst of a life-threatening situation. He told Stanish to usher the 50 or so children who flooded into the gym out.

Kids first

“I didn’t want them to see me fall,” he said, fearing it would leave a lasting, traumatic impression.

Dodge hails from Burin, Newfoundland, – the easternmost buttress of North America – and he was hired just before the start of the school year. He’s here on a special program entitled Visiting INternational Faculty, Santoro said.

For the crew at the Greater Eagle Fire Protection District, just blocks from the school, the emergency call was a desperate race to get there with a ladder before he fell. Dodge was one of their own, joining the department as a volunteer just a few months back.

They arrived just moments after he hit the mat.

Chief Jon Aspen, who has a son in Dodge’s classes, said Dodge is a favorite teacher.

“We tried to get there, and we couldn’t,” Asper said.

“He gives 150 percent. He’s so sincere and honest and so gung ho. He loves those kids, Asper said. “He’s also a hell of a teacher.”

Santoro interviewed the twenty-something Dodge last summer and said he knew he was the proper candidate for the job just on the strength of the telephone interview.

“I could tell he was very much a middle school kind of guy,” Santoro said. “He’s a keeper.”

The community may remember Dodge better for the “American Bandstand” concert that featured era music from the ’50s to the ’70s held Monday.

Cliff Thompson can be reached at 949-0555 ext 450 or cthompson@vaildaily.com

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