It was a tumble that lasted only about five seconds. But for Ken Maguire, the repercussions of that December afternoon will last a lifetime, a lifetime that he will now get to enjoy thanks in large part to the efforts of members of the Wilmington Fire Department.
Maguire was the construction worker who fell from the roof of a Cornell Place building in December, leaving the scene on a stretcher in a medical helicopter.
The Hooksett, N.H., resident spent 33 days in the hospital with a broken femur, snapped hip, injured knee and broken back among other injuries. Though he’ll eventually be recovered almost 100 percent from his injuries, Maguire said the incident will always have an impact on him.
“I value every day now,” said Maguire. “Everyone should reflect for a second and realize that life could be over in a split second. I try not to go to bed mad at anyone, and I make sure to give my kids an extra hug and kiss every day. Life is valuable, and I realize that now.”
Maguire said that he was demonstrating to another worker how to use a piece of machinery when he suddenly realized there was no ground beneath him. Though the fall took just seconds, he said it seemed like an eternity.
Believe it or not, Maguire was able to decide midair exactly what he needed to do to survive the plummet of about 30 feet. Having trained in martial arts and skydiving, Maguire knew to keep his eyes on the horizon to balance his center of gravity.
After pushing off the brick wall with one foot at one point in the plunge, Maguire braced for impact with a “parachute landing” fall before he tucked and rolled. While he lay motionless on the ground, Maguire was conscious and felt no pain – his first indicator that he had done serious physical damage.
More than six months later, Maguire is still in a back brace and he will never be able to lift more than 10 pounds for the rest of his life. But what he is able to do is see his wife, Donna, and three daughters along with the rest of his loved ones.
“I’m grateful to be walking and talking,” said Maguire. “There was never any self pity. From the moment I got in the chopper, I was trying to wiggle my toes. Then when I got to rehab, I worked hard at it and was adamant that I was not going to let this get me down.”
While driving down I-93 earlier this week on the way to one of his doctor’s appointments, Maguire saw the exit for Wilmington and decided to pull off. There was one group of people he wanted to thank.
As it happened, the crew that was working the day of Maguire’s fall was inside the Wilmington Fire Department when he arrived.
Ironically, this is not the first trip to a local fire department Maguire has made to thank a crew for saving his life. Several years ago he was working on a roof in Billerica when he was struck by lightning.
“Every time I see a first responder, I shake their hand no matter where I am. No one appreciates what they do more than me,” said Maguire. “If those guys in Wilmington weren’t trained the way they were supposed to be and moved me the wrong way, if they did one thing wrong, I would have been paralyzed for the rest of my life. What they do is remarkable.”
Though they didn’t recognize him at first, Wilmington firefighters quickly realized that it was “the allergy guy” who was in their presence. Maguire wasn’t sure why they called him that, so he asked for an explanation.
Firefighters said that while Maguire lay motionless on the ground, they asked him if he had any allergies. Even with broken bones throughout his body, Maguire kept his sense of humor.
“I’m allergic to my wife,” joked Maguire to the first responders on the scene. Even his wife got a chuckle out of that story, according to the construction worker.
All kidding aside, Ken Maguire will never forget the five seconds that changed everything - especially his outlook on life.
“It was only a five second fall, but it was the worst five seconds of my life,” said Maguire. “But it worked out for the best. I could be dead, but I’m not. I’m not living the dream, but I’m close to it.”