At night, in her dreams, Fadumo Abdullahi sees her son fall out of her Minneapolis apartment window, her long arms reaching for him as he tumbles through the air.
“Mommy, come help me,” he cries. It’s been the same dream night after night, ever since her son Musa Dayib followed his sister onto the balcony of the family’s 11th-floor unit, slid his 15-month-old body between the railings and fell one month ago.
The shock of that day has stayed with Abdullahi and her husband, Guled Ahmed. It’s still hard to believe, they said, even as Musa himself seems to shed all reminders of that day.
Doctors have dubbed him the miracle baby. They will remove his last cast Thursday, the one covering his left arm from the wrist to the biceps. The only other visible sign of his 11-story fall to the ground is a pink scar on the back of his head.
“He is the same way that he was before,” said Abdullahi, speaking through an interpreter Wednesday at the family’s Riverside Plaza apartment, where Musa fell. At her feet, Musa pushed a Matchbox car across the carpet as she spoke. “This is something beyond comprehension,” she said.
An open door
On May 11, Musa was with his 3-year-old sister and father in their apartment at Riverside Plaza, the collection of towers in Cedar-Riverside that are home to hundreds of Somali families. Musa’s sister had been routinely opening the balcony door because it easily slid open. “Even before Musa fell, his sister has always been opening the door,” Abdullahi said. “Every time his sister opens the door, he’s always behind her.”
The balcony’s guardrail was built to exceed safety requirements when it was installed, with gaps between the rails measuring 5 ⅜ inches apart. Today’s building code requires a narrower gap of just 4 inches.
Ahmed was with his children in the apartment on the evening Musa fell but didn’t see them edge out onto the balcony around 8 p.m. Neither parent witnessed the fall.
Abdullahi was on a lower floor at the apartment complex finishing laundry. The family had spent the day outside celebrating Mother’s Day.
She returned to find her apartment empty and the door open. Thinking it was a fire alarm, she went downstairs to search for her family, but when she stepped out of the building numerous people pointed to her and said, “There’s the baby’s mother.”
She saw the ambulance and heard people say that a baby had fallen. She at first assumed it was her daughter. Then someone said it was Musa and she fainted.
Bandaged and braced
At Hennepin County Medical Center, Musa was bandaged and put into a neck brace. A family picture shows him resting in his hospital bed connected to wires and tubes. His injuries were mostly to his upper body: a broken left arm, broken ribs, a broken right wrist and a wound to the back of his head. A doctor told reporters that the fall would have killed an adult, but somehow Musa’s toddler body had absorbed the blow.
He landed on soft mulch, just inches from a concrete sidewalk on one side and a steel box containing electrical equipment on the other. A witness said he was crying and calling for his mother after the fall, the first sign he might make it.
He left the hospital on May 23 wearing casts on both arms, a body cast for his ribs and a bandage on his head. Day by day, his mother said, he’s become healthier. He no longer needs pain medication and has resumed playing with toy cars.
The family plans to move, said Abdullahi, once a lower unit opens up. The door to the balcony has been locked shut by the property owner after the family requested it.
On Wednesday, playing in his family’s apartment, Musa raced cars on the living room carpet and played with his parent’s cellphone. He called for his father, and when Ahmed turned to face him, Musa smiled and looked away.
“It’s not something that I can fathom myself, as to what happened,” Abdullahi said.
Matt McKinney • 612-217-1747