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Meagan Petry, an Absecon woman who endured 21 surgeries following a six-story fall at her college dorm in Georgia, speaks Thursday during a news conference at the law office of Paul D'Amato in Egg Harbor Township.

Four years ago today, Meagan Petry leaned against a railing in her college dorm. The railing broke and she fell six stories to the ground.

“I remember I’m holding on to a post that’s left because the railing was broken,” she said. “I woke up in the hospital two weeks later.”

Four years and 21 surgeries later, the Absecon resident spoke publicly about her ordeal for the first time at a news conference at her attorney’s office Thursday. Despite her injuries, which continue to affect her life, Petry, 22, said she keeps a positive attitude.

“I will get better. It will be a better situation in the future,” she said. “I’m trying to figure out how to get through the rest of my life.”

In the spring of 2008 Petry was a freshman at Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Ga. Petry developed kidney and sinus infections and had decided to recuperate at home and return to school in the fall.

While moving out, she leaned against a railing, which collapsed — forever changing Petry’s life.

She suffered severe injuries to her face, chest and legs, and has had 21 surgeries since her accident. She said her worst injuries were to her legs, and she is unable to run or jump.

The 2007 graduate of Holy Spirit High School said she remains in constant pain. Her doctors continue to monitor her, and Petry said she will have to have additional surgeries.

“Each time I get a surgery it’s hard,” she said. “Something is always changing. Something always comes up. I’m not done yet. My doctors told me I’ll never be done ever. I’ll always need something replaced.”

Petry planned to work in an artistic field like photography or set design but is unsure if she can make that work because of the physical demands of those professions.

“I still have those dreams and goals. I must rework what I can to have a job,” she said.

Petry’s attorneys filed a lawsuit in October 2009 in Chatham County, Ga., naming the college, and several companies who oversaw the construction at the Turner House dormitory where she lived. The attorneys seek medical costs, which they declined to update a value for Thursday.

Paul D’Amato, of D’Amato Law Firm on Fire Road and lead counsel in the case, said depositions are still ongoing and they plan to go to trial in spring 2013. D’Amato also said both sides are working toward a settlement to resolve the matter.

SCAD released a statement on the incident Thursday afternoon: “The hearts and prayers of the SCAD community continue to be with Meagan Petry and her family. This was a tragic accident, and although the university cannot comment on pending litigation, SCAD remains committed to the well-being of our students and the safety of university facilities.”

Petry kept a calm demeanor throughout the news conference and said she just wants to know why this happened to her.

“I want an explanation,” she said. “I don’t have any anger towards anybody. I just want to know why it happened and for it not to happen again.”

She even said she wants to return to the school to finish her education.

“I would love to go back to SCAD when all this is done,” she said. “I love everything SCAD has to offer.”

Contact Joel Landau:

609-272-7215

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