By Hollie Bone
A mum nearly killed by a branch which fell from more than 100ft above her while she was enjoying a cigarette is now determined to quit smoking – and has been left with a phobia of TREES.
Jenna Van Dyke, 37, suffered a punctured lung, seven broken ribs, a broken collarbone and shattered her shoulder blade in three places when the branch came crashing down from a 100-year-old pine tree in her garden in Alabama, USA, last month – crushing her right side.
The environmental sciences student and mum-of-one was celebrating her son Camden’s 16th birthday when she heard a spine-chilling crack from above her head – but not knowing where the branch would land, Jenna stayed on the metal bench she had been sat on and braced herself for impact.
Despite being discharged from hospital earlier this month with her physical injuries on the mend, terrified Jenna says the incident has left her with dendrophobia – a fear of trees – and is determined to kick the smoking habit which nearly killed her.
She said: “The sun was shining outside so I decided to take my iPad outside with me while I had a cigarette. I was sat on this metal bench we have and I heard a loud crack from above.
“The branches of the tree are really spread out, so I wasn’t sure which way they were going to come down.
“I braced myself and covered my head and leaned to the left as far as I could, and it landed on my right side, destroying that side of the bench with it.
“It hit my shoulder, my hip and my ribs, it was agony, but somehow I managed to get inside the house and started screaming for help.”
Discovered by her husband, Otis, 48, Jenna was rushed to hospital, where she spent nine days undergoing surgery to repair her collarbone and pumping blood off her chest.
Dramatic x-rays show the metal pins and bars now holding her collarbone together after the emergency surgery.
She said: “I knew I had punctured a lung because it was so hard to breathe and the pain was unimaginable.
“When I got to the hospital they fitted a tube into my chest to pump the blood out of my chest and stop air pockets from forming.
“I ended up having surgery to fix my collarbone with two metal plates and 18 screws.
“I had to have help getting in and out of bed, I couldn’t even go to the toilet alone or dress myself.”
Since being discharged, Jenna has been living at her mum Robin’s house nearby in order to be cared for around the clock – but also because she is too scared to return to the tree-lined street outside her own home.
The student will now have to start university next year to allow her to fully recover from her injuries, but is also determined to use the time to give up smoking.
She said: “I’ve been living at my mum’s while I recover so she can be there to help me when I need.
“I can go outside here because my mum has a covered porch, but if I was at home I couldn’t go outside, there are at least six enormous pine trees on the street we live on and they’re all hundreds of years old.
“I have been back to my house and it’s a weird feeling but I was terrified walking underneath the tree.
“I definitely have developed dendrophobia from the incident, I even have trouble watching movies because you don’t notice the amount of times things fall on people in films but it happens a lot.
“I was watching the Hobbit in hospital and there was a scene where rocks were falling on them and I had to turn it off.
“When I think about it I get upset, even though I know the chances of that happening again are so low.
“I’ll have to wait until next spring to be able to go back to school.
“It’s a bit ironic that I’m trying to protect nature and it definitely doesn’t seem to have my back!
“But the incident has made me realise I really want to stop smoking now – it is a dangerous habit.
“I’m trying to push myself to get my independence back, and in the meantime I’ll try to laugh at what happened.”