FAIRFIELD — A 25-year-old mother to five young children said Wednesday that she is grateful to be spending Christmas with her family, even if she spends the day immobilized by a body cast covering her neck, back and torso.

Kristin Cook, a certified nursing assistant at Mt. St. Joseph Nursing Home in Waterville, fell about 10 feet from a tree in the backyard of the Willow Street home into which she and her boyfriend, Rob Rolfe, were in the process of moving just before Thanksgiving.

“I’m just grateful that my injury isn’t worse than it is and that I’m able to spend time with my children,” Cook said on Wednesday.

The couple has five children between them ranging from 1 to 11 years old and recently decided to buy the house where Cook had spent most of her childhood. They had been there only a few days when Cook and the two oldest children, Alexis, 11, and Aiden, 9, were out in the backyard admiring a tree Cook used to climb as a child.

“I was out there showing them where I used to sit. It was always my favorite tree, although that was a long time ago,” Cook said. “There were a lot of dead branches and I wanted to kick them down, so that when Alexis went to climb the tree she wouldn’t slip and fall.”

Cook lost her footing and fell about 10 feet to the ground, and although she doesn’t remember the fall, Alexis told Cook that she hit a branch on the way down and landed on her back.

The girl ran to get help from neighbors while her brother stayed with Cook. “I knew as soon as I hit that I had broke my back,” Cook said. She said she was conscious but couldn’t talk.

“I just remember them saying, ‘There’s so much blood. She’s bleeding,'” Cook recalled. She was taken by ambulance to the hospital, where doctors told her she had fractured two vertebrae in her back and a bone in her neck. She had a large bruise on her leg and a gash in her head that required five stitches.

It’s been about three weeks since the accident, and although Cook has improved, she still is required to wear a body cast around her neck, back and torso that limits her movement. She can’t drive and the injury has forced her to stop working. Her boyfriend, who works for J&M Enterprises in South China, took time off to care for Cook and just returned to work this week, she said.

Cook will have to stay in the cast for 10 to 12 weeks, and she still hasn’t received a long-term diagnosis about how the injury will heal or how it will affect the rest of her life. Sometimes the pain from the injury makes her sick to her stomach and gives her violent headaches.

“I know it will be hard for them, raising five kids on one income instead of two,” said Lea Rae Stewart, a family friend who has been helping Cook care for the children. “I thought it was pretty amazing that the kids knew what to do when she was hurt.”

Friends like Stewart and family have been helping Cook care for the children during the day and making dinners, and they have collected money and gasoline cards to help the family through the difficult economic time resulting from Cook being unable to work.

Cook said she never fell out of the tree as a child and that despite the accident, she doesn’t regret buying the house. “Alexis has been helping out a lot. So has Aiden. Those two are my little heroes,” Cook said.

About a week after the accident, the family ordered Chinese food. “I got my fortune, and it said something about going back home will bring good luck,” she said. “Hopefully, that’s still to come.”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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