Cliff-jumping survivor making remarkable progress

Published: Dec. 4, 2019 at 2:52 PM EST
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We have a follow-up to a story you saw on WCAX News this summer. A Colchester family has an extra-special reason to be thankful this holiday season. Our Cat Viglienzoni explains why.

When we last saw Kerrigan Davis, she was in a hospital bed waiting for surgery unsure whether she'd ever walk again. Now, just four months after the injury, she says it's a miracle that she's doing that and more.

"It's a gladiolus vine. And it's a flower for strength and resilience," Kerrigan explained.

There's a new tattoo on Kerrigan's arm and a new scar on her back, both permanent reminders of the hardest months of her life.

"I technically should be in a wheelchair," Kerrigan said. "That's what my surgeon said. He said it's a miracle I'm even able to still walk."

But the 21-year-old from Colchester isn't just walking. She's lifting weights.

"Right now, it's not very much. I'm only doing 10-pound dumbbells right now which for me feels like they're 50," she said.

It's about half of what she used to be able to do. But if you'd told her four months ago that she'd be back at the gym, neither she nor her doctors would have believed you.

"I regret every decision that I made on that day to do that," Kerrigan told WCAX News from her hospital bed back in July.

She was waiting for surgery to her shattered spine after she jumped off a 70-foot cliff into Lake Champlain and hit the water wrong.

"Rehab was a struggle. When I first entered, I didn't really have any strength to do anything and I really just wanted to lay in bed all day," she said.

It took a team to get her to this point. Her first steps as her body relearned how to walk were hard. She was in pain. She had lost 22 pounds of muscle in the hospital and didn't feel like herself.

Reporter Cat Viglienzoni: What are you most thankful for?

Kerrigan Davis: I'm most thankful for the support. Without it, I don't think I'd be where I am.

She got help from doctors, family, friends and "Dove," a therapy kitten.

"She brings so much life to everything. I hadn't smiled as much as I did when I first adopted her. It was crazy. I hadn't smiled like that in forever," Kerrigan said.

Dove brings smiles to everyone in the Davis family. Mom Lynnette says they are finally starting to get their lives back, too.

"You didn't think that she was going to come out of this. You didn't know what to think. It was very traumatic for everybody," Lynnette said.

She's a personal trainer helping Kerrigan build a new workout routine, starting slowly, small steps toward a goal that didn't seem possible.

"There's just no explanation for that. Even her surgeon said that. Her surgeon said, 'I have no explanation for why you aren't in sitting here in a wheelchair,'" Lynnette said. "So when I look across the dinner table tomorrow, I'm going to be more than thankful for what we've been given."

Cat Viglienzoni: In another four months, where do you want to be?

Kerrigan Davis: I want to be able to walk without having any pain. That's the big goal right now.

She eventually hopes to be able to do a bodybuilding competition, though she acknowledges that could take years.

I also asked her whether her story had an impact on her peers. Back in July, she wanted to share her story with me so that others would understand the dangers of cliff jumping. She says she heard from parents and her peers afterward, saying that they were not going to be doing that any more after seeing how badly it could end.

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