He's used to battling fire, but for the past two months Kelly Anderson has been battling to stay stable on his feet.
"We deal with burn injuries, we deal with broken bones and bumps and bruises, says Anderson. "But these kind of spinal injuries we don't think about it as one of the options that can hurt and injure us."
On April 23rd Anderson was one of the first responders to a routine kitchen fire at a home in North Minneapolis. He has not been on a call since.
"It was then just a freak accident," says Anderson. "Just happened to step backwards for someone walking by and I fell backwards over the second story balcony railing."
Luckily Anderson had some of his fellow firefighters close to his side.
"He had stepped back and went over the rail and his arms went like that to grab both of us," says Firefighter Shawn Ferguson. "We were standing on either side of him and he just grabbed us…so our first instinct was to grab him."
Anderson's coworkers caught him by each leg, preventing him from calling to the next floor below and directly onto his head or neck.
Dr. Ivan Brodsky at North Memorial Hospital believes his rare spine injury came when he hit the wall while dangling upside down in all of his fire gear.
"I'm thinking his tank would have hit his neck and his head would have snapped back. So sort of a severe whip-lash in that sense," says Dr. Brodsky.
The result is a bruise to his spinal cord. Immediately Anderson lost feeling from his shoulders down.
"It's like a concussion or a little stroke in the spine he has elements that sound like central cord syndrome," says Dr. Brodsky. "We are talking a millimeter or two more and he could have been permanently paralyzed effecting arms and legs."
"When I came to it was harsh reality of not having full function on my body.... from my shoulders down it felt like everything was asleep and that is a very scary feeling to come to something like that," says Anderson.
After learning to use his arms and legs again Anderson's recovery is slowly improving
"I have the sensation of I'm standing on something but it's not firm. "It's like I'm walking on water of Jell-O all the time," says Anderson. "With my arms... when I'm grabbing something I don't have the sensation of hot and cold.... or sharp or dull."
Back at Station 14, and better balanced with a cane, it's clear how anxious Anderson is to get back to work.
"Honestly what I miss the most is the comradery," says Anderson. "These people I spend a third of my life with and they become family. And not being around them is tough. I do miss that the most."
For now life is just one step at a time.
"It might be 6 months I'll be back to normal, two years... I may never be back to normal....there is just no fine determination at this point," says Anderson. "It's been my world for the last 12 years and I absolutely love the job. I can't imagine doing anything else so everyday I work hard to get back to it."