Cape Girardeau woman's strength slowly returns after a bad fall

Tuesday, February 16, 2010 | 4:42 p.m. CST; updated 9:09 p.m. CST, Tuesday, February 16, 2010

CAPE GIRARDEAU — A 92-year-old Cape Girardeau woman is now feeling more like herself after a fall left her stranded in the cold and less than an hour away from freezing to death.

Thanks to the assistance of Bess Staple, a housekeeper at Southeast Missouri Hospital, who stopped to help, Olwen Riehn only suffered from a broken hip bone after she lay gripping to the steps of her mobile home for more than three hours.

"My teeth were chattering, and I just hurt all over," Riehn said. "If it weren't for her, I don't know if I'd be here."

Riehn fell in front of her mobile home around 5 a.m. one day last month while retrieving her daily newspaper. Although Riehn was able to crawl to the stairs of her home, she didn't have enough upper-body strength to pull herself up and through her front door.

A number of cars drove past Riehn's home that morning, said her great-niece, Donna McLain, but because her residence is in the back corner of a mobile home park off Clark Avenue, none of the drivers noticed her.

"I know the ambulance driver told Bess that in another 30 minutes she probably would have died," said McLain, who is also an employee at Southeast Missouri Hospital.

Staple said she was driving through the mobile home park to help a family member find a place to rent. She had just dropped her granddaughter off at school and found Riehn shivering at around 8:30 a.m.

"I guess it was God putting me where I needed to be," Staple said.

Staple called 911 immediately and, after grabbing several blankets from inside the residence, did her best to raise Riehn's body temperature. She stayed with Riehn until emergency personnel arrived.

"I put my leg up against her back and put my arms around there until 911 got there," Staple said. "I knew not to move her and just keep her warm."

Riehn arrived at the hospital in serious condition, and nurses had to spend time warming her before she was able to have an X-ray performed. Staple visited Riehn daily during her three-day hospital stay. Recently, nearly a month after the accident, Staple and Riehn reunited at Southeast, where Staple gave Riehn a bouquet of red roses and Valentine's Day chocolates.

Riehn said Monday she's feeling 100 percent better. McLain said Riehn hasn't decided, however, if she'll continue to live in her mobile home without assistance from others.

"It's going to depend on how much strength she'll get back; she can't put weight on her leg now," McLain said. "She's a strong person. She would like to be back out on her own."


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