COLUMBUS, Ohio — The balcony collapse at the Falls at Hayden Run condominiums happened in May 2017, but nearly 18 months later Arlene and Roger Guess are still dealing with the effects.
For the first time Roger and Arlene Guess are sharing publicly what they remember about the collapse at Arlene's condo.
“To be so close, yet you can’t help the person you love the most. In that moment, it’s terrifying,” said Arlene Guess.
It was May 30th, 2017 when Arlene’s condo balcony collapsed. The same day when life as Arlene and Roger knew it would never be the same.
“All at once it was just moving nothing we could do,” said Roger Guess.
It was a sudden, and nearly 12-foot drop for both.
All Arlene remembers is returning home from work to find her dad standing on her balcony.
“I walked outside to let him know I was home and almost immediately the deck detached from the house and the next thing I know I woke up on the ground face down,” said Arlene.
The fall knocked them both unconscious.
“I don’t know for how long I was out but I just woke up in excruciating pain,” said Arlene.
She couldn’t see her father but heard his screams for help.
“I was yelling at her trying to see if she was okay I said I can’t move I can’t get to you,” said Roger.
Roger says as a dad, that part was the worst.
“Your first thought is your daughter and you want to get to her so I couldn’t move because my legs were twisted up underneath me and backwards that hurts a tremendous amount, yes,” said Roger.
Roger says he was thrown against the building and the fall shattered his legs and ankles. His head was also split open.
“My arm was trapped up in the bumper,” said Arlene.
Arlene says her arm was stuck in the bumper of her car that was crushed by the balcony.
“I had multiple fractured vertebrae, fractured tail bone, fractured right hip, multiple fractures in my pelvis,” said Arlene.
The father and daughter would become separated in their fight to recover. For a time, neither know how the other was doing. Arlene Guess ended up in the ICU for a few days because of all of her injuries, while Roger Guess was immediately taken into surgery after getting to the hospital, to repair his left ankle and left leg. They spent days in separate hospital wings and then came months of physical therapy as both had to learn to walk again.
“Walking on my own was probably two months after the accident,” said Arlene.
Roger says his progression was also slow and steady.
“The first time I was fully on my legs was three and a half months and all I did was shake,” said Roger.
The damaged deck was removed over the summer, more than a year after the collapse. A lawsuit alleges the Falls at Hayden Run Condominium Association and Lifestyle Communities knew at least one other balcony had fallen and didn’t tell homeowners or make necessary repairs. After the collapse, the city of Columbus had deemed more than 150 condominium decks unsafe and needed repair.
Arlene says their long journey to recover after the collapse revealed new injuries and medical setbacks.
Months later, Roger needed surgery yet again after finding out the fall tore his shoulder. Arlene says she had so much trauma to the tissue on the side of her leg that it couldn't heal. Her parents helped with an excruciating procedure to change Arlene's bandages after two surgeries.
“I wouldn’t wish the pain on my worst enemy, essentially it felt like someone was ripping your skin open,” said Arlene.
Both say they still live with daily pain and are limited in what they can do.
“I’ll never be able to go on ladders again because my ankles do not bend so that’s going to stop a lot of stuff I was able to do,” said Roger.
The collapse has also brought on anxiety.
“Any surface that feels unsteady to me I instantly go back to that moment and just have a pit in my stomach and it’s terrifying,” said Arlene.
Arlene returned home to her condo four months after the collapse. She says she keeps the balcony door curtain closed.
“When you’re reminded of that daily it takes a toll on you it’s exhausting so it’s a lot easier to close the curtains and pretend like it’s not there and try to pretend like it didn’t happen,” said Arlene.
But there’s no masking Arlene and Roger’s mental and physical reality. They say there's a constant reminder every day that there's something wrong with them after the injuries. Time may not heal everything.
“I don’t think you can experience trauma and experience a moment like that and not carry it with you for the rest of your life and I’m sure there are going to be times 10 to 20 years from now that even the smallest little thing will bring back that memory,” said Arlene.
Roger says he will need more surgeries to remove screws in one leg and repair an ankle. As for the lawsuit, the family's attorney says the case is set for trial next spring.