FREDERICKSBURG — Brenda Roessing was only going downstairs to the basement for a few minutes, so she didn’t take her phone with her.
“Normally, if I was going to be down there for a while, I’d take my phone,” said Roessing, 45. “But this was only going to be for a split second.”
Roessing was at her rural Louisa County home alone that day, Dec. 11. Her two daughters, Harley and Cheyenne Conley, 14 and 10, were at their grandmother’s house in Spotsylvania County.
Roessing went downstairs to investigate a wire that had poked through the kitchen floor into the basement.
She climbed on top of a two-step folding stool to reach the wire — and that’s when a dizzy spell hit her.
Roessing started experiencing dizzy spells when she was in a car accident in mid-October.
She reached for the handle of the folding stool to steady herself, but missed. She fell backward, her left leg hitting the floor and her right leg landing at an awkward angle over a nearby futon bed.
Right away, Roessing knew her right leg was dislocated, at the least. She was in terrible pain — and she was alone in the house.
“I thought, how is anybody going to find me?” Roessing said. “It would have been 24 hours until someone else came to the house, and I didn’t have my phone.”
Through her pain, Roessing could hear country music playing, and she remembered that the Echo smart speaker in her kitchen was on. She thought, if she could just get to where the device could hear her, she could ask Alexa to call someone.
Using her left leg and upper body, she pulled herself across the floor and up the basement steps.
It took 25 minutes. She made it as far as the third step from the top and then screamed for Alexa to call her mother, Judy Roessing, at her home in Triangle.
Fifty miles away, Judy Roessing, 74, heard her daughter crying through her own Alexa-enabled smart speaker in her kitchen.
“I kept hearing, ‘Mom! Mom!’” she said. “It really scared me, because she was yelling and I couldn’t see her. I first had to get her to stop crying because I couldn’t understand what she was saying.”
Judy Roessing kept the connection with her daughter while someone else in the house called the Louisa County Sheriff’s Office, which alerted EMS.
It was about 45 minutes from when she fell to the time the ambulance got to her house, Brenda Roessing said.
They took her to an emergency room in Charlottesville, where a CT scan showed the leg was broken — “like a staircase going down,” the doctor told Roessing.
She had surgery Dec. 16, and doctors inserted two metal plates and “10 to 15 screws” to hold the pieces of bone together. They closed the wound with 62 staples.
Roessing is recuperating at her mother’s house in Triangle, where a plush reclining chair in the living room has become her “home base.”
Her leg is encased in a brace that goes up to her thigh and must be kept extended and elevated. She is supposed to keep weight off it for eight weeks and it will be three months before she can return to her job in merchandising at Home Depot stores in Warrenton, Manassas, Stafford and Spotsylvania.
Roessing said she has worked for Home Depot for almost eight years. Her job involves traveling between the four stores and creating in-store and seasonal product displays.
She hopes the company keeps a job for her, though she knows she might not be able to return to the same job.
Roessing said she credits her Alexa smart speaker with saving her life.
“I’m just thankful that I had her playing,” she said. “I don’t know what I would have done otherwise.”
“People need to know that Alexa does more than just play music or give you a shopping list.”