‘When I was 21, I was in a crazy, freak accident. I was leaning on a balcony railing, when it gave out from behind me. I fell about 20ft onto concrete steps. You can imagine there was lots of damage from that day, and I’ve spent the past couple years working through my physical recovery. Of course there was a law suit, and that ended a couple of years ago.’
Thats the quick and dirty I usually give to people- IF I feel comfortable enough to share a little bit about my background. It used to be much much harder. In fact, there was a time when I didn’t even need to say anything, just from looking at me people would look shocked and say “Oh my god what happened to you”
That used to really upset me. So I would make something up. Sometimes I would say I had worked at Ripleys Aquarium, fell in the tank and had to be fished out. I once had a 30 minute conversation with a stranger about marine biology after that story. And for the record, I know absolutely nothing about Marine Biology!
But when I really think about that day now, I can’t even think about just the day. I think about everything leading up to it, and everything that happened after. It’s sort of like there are 3 parts to my life.
Pre accident, recovery and lawsuit, and post lawsuit.
Preaccident I was a dance student at The School of Toronto Dance Theatre. I had definitely struggled to find my place there through my first two years, but I was really excited to go into my final year. I felt like maybe I COULD make some kind of career in dance. And if not? I was super interested in art and movement therapy. I had just been hired at Lululemon (a job I had wanted for ages!), and I felt really good about my apartment and social life.
Looking back I can see little hints of life trying to tell me that I was seeing all of these things through rose coloured glasses. I had actually REALLY been struggling with my health through most of my time at TDT. I caught pneumonia at the end of my first year, and had issues with my intestines all through my second year. I had spent more time being sick and struggling than actually really enjoying my time there. I had amazing friends through the program, but I always felt like they were more committed, and overall better than I was. I had made new friends outside of school, but we were drinking ALOT, which was sometime I hadn’t really allowed myself before
To be clear I am not judging this version of me or this time in my life, just reflecting.
On a hot, sunday afternoon, my bestfriend and I went out to watch the Toronto Pride Parade. We didn’t often get to see each other, but she had come down specifically to hangout and go to the parade. We were having a fabulous morning. We wandered around the many booths set up, took a super cute picture, cheered alongside many in the community, and went back to my place for a swim. As the afternoon was winding down I went to visit some friends who had been walking in the parade. They were pretty pooped, so it was a very calm day. I don’t remember much from here, so what happened next is mostly from what I’ve been told.
I was chatting to a friend, when the balcony made a loud creaking noise. It started to peel away, and took me down with it. The only memory I have for certain is that I could feel someones hands on my back. I felt like I was being guided down to the ground, and I’m confident there was someone looking out for me that day. I landed face first over concrete steps. I don’t know how long I was out for, but I do remember all of a sudden being seated. From what I am told, my forehead had been smashed through, all the way to the bone. There was a ton of blood, and lots of yelling and screaming. All I remember though, is being extremely confused, extremely dizzy, and extremely concerned about a throbbing pain in my left foot.
I was taken to St.Mikes hospital’s trauma unit immediately. On a side note, I have been to this hospital’s emergency section to support friends. It always felt like there was too much going on, and mostly people who hadn’t necessarily needed their help. I can 100% say now that if you are a person who is taken there and in need of immediate care, they will give you the attention you need.
I was put under so that the damage to my body could be checked, and some time later I woke up. I was very very confused. I couldn’t understand why I was strapped into a head brace, not allowed to get up, and was heavily dosed on pain killers.
I was lucky enough to have friends around me as I woke up, and in pictures we have (yes, there are pictures) you can tell that there I had been tears. I still couldn’t understand why everyone was so upset.
My mum told my sometime later what had happened for everyone else. Everyone there that day was in serious shock. People were in hysterics, and some were even throwing up from both shock and the amount of blood pouring out my head. When my parents were called, nobody could really articulate what had happened, just that they needed to get down to the hospital.
When my parents got there, it was clear everyone had been holding it together, and could finally let themselves go in their presence. My parents were approached by the hospital priest and told if they needed anything, he was there.
At this point they were still super confused. They thought I had just sort of banged my head and needed a *few* stitches. It was at that point a nurse came over and sat them down. She told them I had been in a serious accident. An accident that happens a couple times a year in the city and usually ends with severe brain damage, internal bleeding, paralysis or death. Often at heights lower than what I had been.
So when I woke up, and was for the most part pretty present, everyone was relieved. Although I couldn’t remember details, and we weren’t sure how extensive the long term damage was to my brain there was a few things we knew for certain;
I was Dominique Cheshire. I lived in Toronto. I had been at a friends house when the balcony gave away. I was a dancer. I was lucky. Very, very lucky.
This was the event that completely turned my life around. Although there were lawsuits, and PTSD, and so much work around what recovery and healing would be, I am not sorry to have had this experience.
It changed me, in the most unpredictable way.
And I’m so happy I’m here to get to share it with you,