CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - "You have to jump," Crystal Dawson said to her 11-year-old stepdaughter, Brianna, as their Lynchburg, Virginia, home went up in flames last week.
Dawson, 30, caught Brianna but then shattered her T5 vertebrae, leaving her hospitalized and temporarily paralyzed, unable to walk.
Doctors may have to perform surgery and believe she’ll walk again. However, Dawson won’t be able to pick up anything heavier than a gallon of milk, which means she won’t be able to pick up any of her children, including her 6-month-old baby.
"Honestly, completely crushed," Dawson said about her feelings to FOX Television Stations from UVA hospital. "To know that’s all going to have to change, that was very hard."
Dawson said the incident started early Friday morning when she went to prepare a bottle for her infant.
"I couldn’t even make it not even three steps into my living room before I was hit in the face with flames," she continued.
Pictures of Dawson's home after the fire. (Sean Dawson)
Dawson alerted her family to get out of the house. She, her husband, and their infant escaped, but Brianna and her 9-year-old brother were trapped upstairs in their bedrooms.
"I’m standing at the front door of my house, screaming, ’Guys, get to a window. Guys the house is one fire, get to a window,’" she explained.
The children were able to climb through a window and step onto a piece of a lower-level roof.
Dawson said she caught her 9-year-old stepson who jumped from the roof, but her stepdaughter hesitated before jumping even as the wood beneath her started to crackle.
"She was very scared," Dawson continued.
The little girl then jumped. "I caught her with everything I had in my chest," Dawson said before falling to the ground with her stepdaughter and hearing a pop.
The roof then caved in.
The husband was able to move his wife and the children across the street. When the paramedics arrived, Dawson said she couldn’t get on the stretcher by herself and that’s when she realized something was wrong.
Dawson said she learned of her prognosis from her doctor while at the hospital.
Dawson said she has no regrets about her actions that fateful morning.
"I wouldn’t change a thing. My daughter is safe and that’s all that I was worried about," she added.
"I’ve never looked at them as my stepkids," she continued. "I’ve always looked at them as my kids."
The older children are now living with their biological mother as the house was a total loss. Dawson, her husband, and their infant will stay with other relatives.
The family was told the fire started due to faulty electrical wiring.
This story was reported from Los Angeles.