To some, they might be just a pair of walking shoes.

But for Cathy Dotson, a Columbus woman who was wearing a pair when she took a tumble down her apartment stairs, they were an investment she made to be able to walk.

Dotson, 66, was heading to a friend’s house about 8 a.m. last Friday when she stumbled and fell on her Franklin Street apartment stairs in downtown Columbus. The retiree used her cellphone to call 911.

She was wearing the shoes, her only pair, which were fitted with custom orthotics, which help her walk.

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When firefighters and paramedics from Columbus Fire Station 1 arrived, Dotson was dismayed to learn that paramedics needed to cut away her left shoe in order to stabilize her broken leg.

In tremendous pain, biting down on her purse strap as the emergency responders worked, she consented to allowing Columbus Regional Hospital paramedics Chris Lee and Mike Tuttle to cut away the shoe from her foot.

She said she knew the shoes, valued at more than $100, had been noticed by the firefighters, who described them as “really good shoes.”

As she was taken to Columbus Regional Hospital by ambulance, the ruined shoe was tucked into the cab of one of the Columbus fire engines, but it was not forgotten.

Columbus firefighters Josh Allman and Jerry Shoaf, who work at Fire Station 1 and were at the scene helping Dotson, went to work researching where someone could buy that particular walking shoe in Columbus.

Battalion Chief Mark Ziegler tried three or four places.

By happenstance, firefighters stopped in at White River Running Co. near the station and learned that owner Brandi Legge already knew whom the now-torn shoe belonged to.

“She’s a really sweet lady,” Legge told the firefighters after explaining Dotson had bought the shoes at her store. “I know exactly who that is.”

By the time the firefighters returned to the station, about a dozen of their colleagues and the two CRH paramedics already had their wallets out to donate money to buy Dotson a replacement pair of Brooks shoes. Legge offered the shoes to firefighters at cost and provided a gift certificate to give to Dotson.

Allman went to the hospital to deliver the gift certificate before Dotson even made it into surgery the day of her fall.

Dotson, who was still in the hospital on Wednesday and starting rehabilitation, said what the firefighters and paramedics did was extremely nice. While admittedly a little groggy when the certificate was presented, Dotson said afterward that the gesture meant a great deal to her.

A little overwhelmed by what had happened, and dealing with a cast keeping her leg immobile, Dotson said her benefactors probably didn’t realize the Brooks shoes were the only pair she had.

Allman and Shoaf said it’s the first time they’ve ever gone to this length to replace something for a person they had treated, even though firefighters and paramedics routinely need to cut off shoes or clothing for accident victims.

Allman, who said he’s a runner, said he could understand when Dotson hesitated in giving permission to cut the shoe off her foot.

“She made a gesture. She didn’t want it cut,” he said. “They were pricy shoes. But there was no way, without putting her in even more pain, that we could get the shoe off without cutting it off,” he said.

But on the other hand, Dotson had no idea that the firefighters and EMS personnel were taking money out of their wallets before any of them even knew how much the replacement shoes would cost, Shoaf said.

The firefighters attributed their generosity to a bit of the Christmas spirit.

But what they’re looking forward to now is knowing Dotson will soon be back on her feet and able to walk comfortably in a new pair of shoes.

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Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at or (812) 379-5631.