OrthoCare Express Logo | CT Orthopedic Urgent Care
OrthoConnecticut - Orthopedic Surgery - Danbury - New Milford - Ridgefield - Southbury - Litchfield - Sharon - Connecticut

Dr. Brady In The News: Woman injured by falling branch in New Canaan

By John Kovach, New Canaan Advertiser

A prominent therapist and longtime New Canaan resident is recovering after suffering serious injuries when an ice-laden branch snapped off a tree and struck her Tuesday, Dec. 17.

“It’s a miracle she’s alive,” her son, Lane Coder, said.

woman-who-was-hit-by-branchNew Canaan Advertiser: Contributed Photo / Lane Coder

Dr. Rachel Coder Matthews, shown in an ad campaign photographed by her son, Lane, was injured when a falling branch landed on her Tuesday, Dec. 17.


Dr. Rachel Coder Matthews, LCSW, was with her son, a professional photographer, while he took shots along Lapham Road and Waveny Park around 7 p.m. The trees were still iced over from the previous day’s freezing rain. Former New Canaan residents, they now live in Riverside.

“We were conscious of the conditions and did not enter the wooded area of the park and mainly stood in the street or along the edge of the road where the shoulder/designated area was,” Coder, 43, later wrote in an email. “I took portraits of my mother and landscapes of the park from afar. We were only there for a short period of time and while I was in the street taking photos, my mother was standing in the shoulder next to my car, (which was on with the headlights and rear lights illuminated) watching for cars to alert me. There was not any wind and it was whisper silent in that area and at that point I did not hear any branches fall. All of the sudden it sounded like a bomb went off and I quickly turned to the sound, which was directly above my mother’s head about twenty feet up. I saw a branch as large as my Audi sedan break off a tree and I watched it come down on her head. She disappeared and it was silent again.”

Coder said he repeatedly screamed “No” as he ran to his mother’s aid.

“I barely remember this, but I removed the branch that was on top of her. She was able to speak and she said, ‘I’m OK, I’m OK.” but I knew differently after witnessing the event,” Coder wrote in an email. “She had blood around her mouth but no other visible injuries in the darkness. She complained of pain in her chest and that was all.

“This was the worst single event I have ever seen in my entire life,” he added.

Adding to his trauma, Coder said, was the fact that several cars were driven around him as he tried to help his mother, not stopping to help.

Despite the impact, “It looks like she is going to make a full recovery, and based on what happened it’s hard to believe,” Coder said.


For that, he credits responders from the New Canaan Volunteer Amblance Corps, (also known as New Canaan Emergency Medical Services, NCEMS), and Norwalk Hospital Paramedics.

“I want to shine a light on those whom I consider to be heroes in this situation and saved my mother’s life, and those are the volunteer paramedics of NCEMS,” Coder wrote. “One responder in particular is a family friend, Wendy Hilboldt, along with Troy Haynie, Peter Mason and Kyle from Norwalk Hospital. I am beyond grateful for their professionalism and the training, which Wendy later described to me as being something they are always prepared for but very rarely have to implement.

“I remember my mother mentioning to me several times how gentle and cautious they were with her as they brought her to the ambulance on the board and in a neck brace,” Coder continued. “When she got into the ambulance and out of the darkness, it became very apparent how severe her injuries were and I was told to go to Norwalk Hospital immediately. I waited and followed the ambulance because I could not leave her. Upon arrival at the hospital I was greeted by Wendy, in the waiting room who continued to comfort me and told me that my mother had been and was still in good hands. Wendy later described the event as a ‘bizarre and frightening ordeal.’”

Coder said a CAT scan revealed that his mother suffered a brain hemorrhage, as well as an eight-inch gash on her head which was held together with 20 staples, a broken back with three vertebrate shattered through all three columns, and a broken rib.

“I was told she was lucky to not be paralyzed and ultimately to be alive,” Coder wrote. “We were told brain and spinal cord surgery were probably going to happen the following day. We found out Wednesday morning that she did not need brain surgery and the bleeding had stopped, but she needed reconstructive spinal cord surgery immediately.”

He praised orthopedic surgeon Dr. Robert L. Brady and his team for their work.

“His PA, (physician assistant), Gabriella, promised to call me every hour during the procedure and did so to make sure I knew everything was OK,” Coder wrote. “I am again beyond grateful to Dr. Brady, Gabriella and all of the other doctors, PAs, nurses, occupational therapists and everyone in general at Norwalk Hospital for their kindness and for saving my mother’s life.”

Coder Matthews is now recovering in a rehabilitation facilty closer to her Greenwich home.