A brave Navan woman has relived the moment she realised she was trapped in a blazing inferno and thought, ‘I’m going to die’.
Dee Lawes from Boyne View in Johnstown was trapped in her first floor bedroom when a blaze broke out in the hot press and smashed both feet in a desperate 12 foot drop to safety.
She told Meath Live, ‘The crackle of the fire woke me, well actually I believe my guardian angel woke me, something certainly did as I had taken some sleeping tablets a short while before, and I went to go downstairs but as soon as I opened the bedroom door the heat drove me back, it was like a physical sensation and I thought, ‘I am going to die here.’
‘Genuinely my train of thought was if I don’t get out of here I am dead and my immediate reaction was I have to get out the window.
‘The fortunate thing was that a few weeks ago that window was broken and wouldn’t open but we had a man round to fix it last week only for that I dread to think what would have happened.
‘I scrambled out on to the window sill and sat there thinking that I had to jump but where did I aim for, at first I thought of jumping on to my car and hoping it would break my fall but I realised I had nothing to grip on to if I landed on the car.
‘When this was going through my mind I could hear the glass in the window starting to crack so I knew it was now or never, if I didn’t get down immediately I would be roasted alive.’
In blind panic Dee then attempted to turn into Navan’s Spiderwoman.
She recalled, ‘I put my toes into the cracks between the house bricks and was hanging on by my fingertips but there wasn’t enough grip there so I had to jump.
‘I made the leap and said to myself, ‘Jesus Mary Mother of God help me.
‘I landed on the concrete driveway and felt a sharp shudder go right through my entire body and knew I had done damage but the pain told me I was still alive.
‘My first instinct was to get myself further away from the house but I couldn’t move, I literally could not move a muscle and as the fall had winded me I hadn’t the breath to shout for help, so there was nothing I could do only hope somebody found me.’
Among those who came to Dee’s aid was neighbour Kerry Shannon who heard the Lawes house alarm which had been set off by the blaze, and trained nurse Kerry was faced with a dilemma.
Dee remembers, ‘When somebody is injured the one thing you do not do is move them that could cause spinal damage but as the fire was threatening to spread they decided they had to move me.
‘When they went to lift me one of them accidentally stood on my foot and that sent another shot of pain through me, but eventually they carried me across to a neighbour’s house.’
When the fire brigade arrived on the scene one of them revealed to Dee just how fortunate she had been.
‘He told me I had a two minute window of opportunity to escape, I couldn’t help but think yeah I saw the window and took my opportunity!
‘I’m not overly religious but I am spiritual and I truly believe there was someone or something in the room that night looking out for me, I wasn’t exactly thinking rationally but something made me think go for the window, people can believe me or not but I am convinced a guardian angel got me out of there.’
Dee spent two weeks in Drogheda’s Lourdes hospital and medics there have told her that her high level of fitness was a factor in her survival.
‘I cycle a lot, I have done the Malin to Mizen run, I go the gym and I hike a lot so yeah I would be fairly fit and that stood to me, as soon as I can I’ll be back on the bike and down the gym, but I’d say my hiking days are done.
‘I’ve been thinking back on the whole thing and you know I wasn’t actually scared I hadn’t time to be scared and as soon as I realised I could die I decided that I wasn’t going to.
‘I said to myself, Dee at 51 you are too young to die, you have a husband kids and grandchildren to live for you are not dying here tonight.
‘When I go I want to go asleep in a bed and not wake up but not the way I nearly did just that!
‘If I learned anything from my near death experience it is this, get your hot press checked out regularly and get some rope ladders and attach them to all upstairs windows in cae you might ever need them.
‘If I had them I wouldn’t have suffered the damage I did.’