She’s a grandma. She got run over. By a reindeer.
Well, it was a regular deer, but it really happened to Marlene Halt of Town of Tonawanda, and she lived to tell the tale.
“It was kind of freaky,” the 66-year-old grandmother said Wednesday, a day after coming home from the hospital where she’d been since becoming the real-life victim of a corny Christmas carol.
Cue the banjo.
It was just after dinner on Dec. 10, when Halt and her neighbor were out on their nightly walk on Heritage Road across from Brighton Park Golf Course.
It was already dark out and they were on the sidewalk, just a few houses down from Halt’s home on Heritage.
Halt felt something slam into her right side.
“It just came out of nowhere,” she said.
Her friend turned to her and gasped: “Did you feel that brush past?”
At first she didn’t see Halt, she later told her. Then she looked down and saw Halt on the ground.
A deer, possibly spooked by a dog, had crashed into Halt and run away, probably back to the golf course, where deer are often seen.
“It sideswiped me. I could feel the pain. It was so quick. I fell on the right side,” Halt said.
The impact knocked her sneaker off her foot.
She didn’t know it yet, but the fall shattered Halt’s hip and ball joint.
“I can’t stand,” she remembered saying.
Her neighbor went for help, and Halt’s husband pulled his car up next to her. They drove her to DeGraff Memorial Hospital.
In the meantime, Halt’s grandson, Jared, 16, was trying to contact his mother – Halt’s daughter – to tell her about the bizarre incident.
The daughter, Jackie Pickard, was driving at the time with her 7-year-old son, Preston, in the backseat. Someone was repeatedly calling and texting her, so she tossed her cellphone to her son and asked him to read the message.
“Who keeps calling? What are they saying?” she asked.
Preston read the message: “Noni was in accident. Noni was run over by a reindeer.”
“What are you talking about?” she barked back.
She didn’t know if it was a prank or a misunderstanding or what, but soon learned what had happened.
It was no joke.
The doctors scheduled Halt for an emergency hip replacement the next day.
‘Noni’ takes it in stride
It came as a terrible disappointment to Halt. She loves Christmas.
Starting the day after Thanksgiving, it’s all about Christmas for Halt, her daughter said. She transforms her home into a Christmas wonderland, taking down all of the photos and trinkets around the house and putting up all the Christmas decorations she’s collected over the years. She even takes down the shower curtain, replacing it with a snowman-covered one.
She begins baking her famous Christmas cookies, filling her home with the mouthwatering smells of sugar cookies and old-fashioned Italian treats. And then there’s the shopping. She always tries to find a unique, fitting gift for everyone in her family.
“It’s her time of the year,” Pickard said.
The family worried she wouldn’t be home for Christmas.
At DeGraff, Halt was taking things in stride. And she maintained a sense of humor about what had happened.
At her physical therapy, Christmas carols were often playing, and when “Grandma got run over by a reindeer” would play, Halt and everyone would have a good laugh.
Even her doctor took to calling her “the deer lady.”
Her family members did their best to keep her chuckling about it, too.
Pickard and her sons took a photo of their Elf on a Shelf wearing a “Team Noni” shirt pinning a stuffed reindeer doll to the ground and showed it to her. The family also got her a T-shirt that said: “Grandma ain’t scared of no reindeer.”
Halt said she found it all rather humorous.
“I like deer,” she said, adding she doesn’t want them to be hunted. “I just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. I’m sure it wasn’t a crazy deer looking for me.”
By Tuesday, she was well enough to go back to her Tonawanda home. She attributes the fast recovery to her daily walks and her devoted rehab team at the hospital.
Christmas won’t be quite the same this year. She wasn’t able to get much shopping or baking done and she still needs to take it easy at home. While she was willing to talk about the incident, she was not willing to have a photograph taken, after just returning from the hospital.
But Pickard said that the deer has had an unexpected impact on her family. Instead of fixating on who is going to get what present, the family is thinking about Halt.
“They’re saying, ‘I hope Noni can come home’ and ‘What can we do to make it special for Noni?’ It’s not about the new games and toys. It’s nice to see the traditional values.”
Of course the kooky coincidence of having a reindeer-related incident with your grandma right before Christmas will not be forgotten soon. No one can quite believe what happened. Pickard, who works as a paralegal at a local injury law firm, said no one at her work has ever heard of such an accident.
Halt says she’s just happy to be home. “This is one for the books. We’ll laugh about it next year.”
And she doesn’t mind the jokes about the song.
“It’s quite appropriate,” she said.