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Woman who fell off waterfall tells tale of survival

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MONTGOMERY COUNTY (WSLS 10) - We're hearing from a woman who fell off a waterfall in Montgomery County and lived to tell the tale.

Kalea Duke says she fell around 30 feet onto rocks last month.

She says she credits her survival in part to her friend who quickly ran for help.

Right now, Duke has to wear a back brace every day.

She can't even go up stairs, but after falling off a waterfall at Camp Alta Mons in Shawsville, she sees just having her life as a blessing.

For Duke and her friend Kayla McGuire, September 19th changed from a fun afternoon hike to a near death experience in a split second.

"We started going down, and I got my foot caught and it just like twisted and then I started falling back, and Kayla grabbed me and I guess just the water took me," said Duke.

"She fell about three stories off the waterfall," said McGuire.

When she got to the bottom, McGuire says she immediately knew it was serious.

"I checked her out before I left her, and her back was, I could feel a knot in her back, and that was when I realized that yes, we had to get an ambulance," said McGuire.

McGuire raced back down the two mile trail.

"I found an emergency phone, and I contacted the local office of the camp. Also I called the police," said McGuire.

Around 30 emergency responders from five different departments came to Duke's rescue.

When she finally got to the hospital, the diagnosis wasn't good.

"I had two vertebrae that cracked. One was shattered and it was leaning up against my spine," said Duke.

That meant, she needed surgery to prevent permanent damage.

"Never had any type of surgery before, so that was, it was really scary," said Duke.

After 10 screws and two rods were put in her spine, the surgery was successful.

Now, for the meantime, Duke's life is different.

She's moved back home so her parents can care for her.

She sleeps in the living room because she can't go up stairs, but she says there's a silver lining.

"Just thankful that, you know I'm going to be able to walk and I'll be able to live life," said Duke.

McGuire is also still by Duke's side.

She started a Go Fund Me page that has brought in more than 800 dollars, but she says, more than anything, the two of them have learned a valuable lesson.

"Always use the buddy system. If you're going on a hike, or whatever you're doing, let somebody know, and just keep in touch and just remember that anything can happen at anytime," said McGuire.

Duke says the hospital has told her that she'll get her back brace off in about three months, but she is expected to make a full recovery, and she says she has her friend McGuire to thank for it.